Page 10 - Lent2013j

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Saturday after Ash Wednesday
Isaiah 58:9B-14
Psalm 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Luke 5:27-32
Thus says the LORD: He will renew your strength…like a spring whose water never fails.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in kindness to all who call upon
you. Gladden the soul of your servant, for you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
As we enter the first week of Lent, we are reminded that prayer, fasting, and almsgiving
(mercy) are Lenten disciplines that are communal...not private. In an ancient sermon, St.
Peter Chrysologus eloquently preached the Lenten disciplines:
There are three things, my brethren, by which faith stands firm, devotion re-
mains constant, and virtue endures. They are prayer, fasting and mercy. Prayer
knocks at the door, fasting obtains, mercy receives. Prayer, mercy and fasting:
These three are one, and they give life to each other.
Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to
separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of
them or not all of them together, you have nothing. So if you pray,
fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard,
hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others you
open God's ear to yourself.
As I thought about my previous “private” Lenten experiences, I came to the
honest conclusion that it was not sufficiently communal. I was experiencing
minimal growth in my faith and relationship to God by just “giving up” a
guilty pleasure. By the end of Lent I was consuming more coffee and praying
less. I failed because it was not communal. My Lenten experience was not
building up my community or my faith. So, I diligently prayed for guidance
and clarity. As a result, I began to enter the Lenten season with the purpose
of not merely “giving up” something, but rather, with the purpose of “giving”
to others. In today’ readings, Isaiah exhorts us to “
remove from your midst
oppression, false accusation and malicious speech...bestow your bread on
the hungry and satisfy the afflicted
”. During this period of Lent, are we free-
ing ourselves from the grip of oppression that we are bestowing upon others
with our speech and actions? Are we committed to issues of social justice
and equality for all people? St. Peter Chrysologus sermon continues: