Reflection on Ash Wednesday

First Reading: Jl 2:12-18
Psalm: Ps 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 12-13, 14 and 17
Second Reading: 2 Cor 5:20-6:2
Gospel: Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

Both the first reading and the Gospel in today’s liturgy speak of
fasting. Fasting has a long and honored history in Judeo-Christian
religious practice. From its earliest days fasting has always been seen
as a means of providing food for the hungry.

Fr. Joseph Donders in his reflection on Ash Wednesday quotes St.
Augustine on fasting and mortification: “Don’t believe that fasting
suffices. Fasting punishes you, but it does not restore your brother.
How many poor people could be nourished by the meal you did not take
today?” Donders points out how Augustine reflects the words Isaiah
wrote centuries earlier: “Is not this the sort of fasting that pleases
me-to share your bread with the hungry?”

It is the practice in some schools during Lent to have a “mite” box on
the teacher’s desk. Children would put the money that they saved in the
box; money they saved by not taking a soft drink or buying candy. The
Far East Mission Society would use the money to buy unwanted babies in
China. Fasting would buy these unwanted babies life.

The Church encourages this sort of fasting-for-others during the season
of Lent. In a country where poverty holds the vast majority in its
grip, fasting-that-others-might-eat can satisfy the faster’s spiritual
hunger as well as the physical, and perhaps also the spiritual, hunger
of the poor.