(Note: Thank you dear Cletus for presenting CCV readers with a new approach to Lenten time fasting. Fasting is comparable to darkness which all want to shun, feasting is like light that banishes darkness. You are really providing the seven rainbow colours of light — compassion, appreciation, joy, gratitude, positivity, mercy and grace — to get us out of the time-worn gloomy approach to the traditional Lenten season. Please do send us always a small snap of your face which ought to reflect the beauty of these inner thoughts as it is said in Tamil (Akathin azhaku mukathil therium). This applies to all who joyfully collaborate with Church Citizen’s Voice and send in their contributions. Yes our name is fully rooted in the words of St.Paul: “You are no longer aliens or foreigners, you are citizens like the saints and part of God’s household”Eph.2.19. Feasting and rejoicing in the Lord is to be the permanent feature of citizens in God’s house hold. james kottoor, editor)
What does the Old and the New Testament say about fasting, penance and disciplining of the body?
Mt. 12:7 says, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”
Ps. 51: 16,17 says, “You have no delight in sacrifice. If I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not spurn.”
Mt. 15: 11 says, “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”
External acts of penance do not make us holy. They merely predispose us to pray better. Let us not limit ourselves to external observances. Let us pour new wine in fresh wineskins. This lent Jesus wants us to:
1. Fast from anger, feast on compassion;
2. Fast from criticism, feast on appreciation;
3. Fast from gloom; feast on joy;
4. Fast from complaints; feast on gratitude;
5. Fast from jealousy; feast on positivity;
6. Fast from judgment; feast on mercy;
7. Fast from guilt; feast on grace.
Fast from anger, feast on compassion;
· Mt. 14:14s says, “When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.” Anger in those who hold positions of power is destructive. A superior, parish priest, principal or director is to show compassion in the daily discharge of duties. Managing anger requires one to accept in humility that my anger is destructive and I need help.
Fast from criticism, feast on appreciation;
· Mt. 18:15 says, “If another member of the Church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.” Every success when positively reinforced/encouraged tends to be repeated. Criticising a person in his/her absence is immature. It leads to bitterness.
Fast from gloom; feast on joy;
· Jn. 10:10 says, “I came that you may have life and have it abundantly.” One must manage one’s mood swings, loneliness and frustration by engaging in healthy hobbies and outdoor activities. St. Francis Assisi would ask a gloomy brother to make confession at once if he is found gloomy.
Fast from complaints; feast on gratitude;
· Mt. 11:25 says, “I thank you father, Lord of heaven and earth because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.” We have more reasons to be grateful than to complain. We have dignity in the society, decent jobs to do, have financial security and people are happy to be with us. An attitude of gratitude is a sure step towards happiness.
Fast from jealousy; feast on positivity;
· Mt. 18: 21,22 says, “Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” Being on the receiving end of jealousy is a fact of life. Let us not return jealousy in kind. We must become habitual forgivers to be habitually happy and holy people.
Fast from judgment; feast on mercy;
· Mt. 5:7 says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Let us not use our homilies and church announcements to settle scores with others. Let us respect others’ individuality and accept that everyone is a ‘live’ tabernacle.
Fast from guilt; feast on grace.
· 2 Cor. 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you for power is made perfect in weakness.” Nurturing guilt makes us less human. Weed out the source of guilt-the cause may be a wrong relationship, wrongful addiction, inaction or lack of interest in spiritual reading and activities. Grace flows abundantly from the pierced heart of Jesus. We have to let it fill us and be graceful. Let grace react with me and bear fruits this Lenten season.
Mt. 9:17b says, “New wine is put into fresh wineskins and so both are preserved.” Our actions should conform to our beliefs, our status and our profession for us to be preserved. We have been looking at consecrated life/priestly/Christian life with the prism of tradition never asking what Jesus wants us to do. Let us rise above the practices and traditions and pour new wine into fresh wineskins. This Lenten season, in the year of Mercy, Jesus asks us to pour new wine of compassion, appreciation, joy, gratitude, positivity and forgiveness, mercy and grace into our structures of priestly/religious/Christian life that both our faith, life and identity are preserved, made relevant to today’s times and grow much fruits of sanctity and holiness.
Wish you all a Grace-filled Lent and Paschal season.
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