Friday, February 20, 2015

Day 3: Stop! You're Doing Lent Wrong!

Time magazine!  Yes, that Time magazine, which last I checked was a secular magazine, wrote up a story on what the Pope wants us to give up for Lent.  Of course, the Pope didn't tell us what to give up specifically but Time put up a clever headline to make us click on the column.  The reason I'm mentioning this is that according to Time, fasting or giving up stuff for Lent has become "increasingly popular" even among the non-religious.  That's great, but do they know why they are fasting?  The column does correctly point out some things that Pope Francis has said about fasting, which have been said for centuries, and he even underscored some of these facts this morning in Rome.  In his Lenten letter in 2013 when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires (not knowing that he would finish that Lent as the Bishop of Rome), Cardinal Bergoglio quoted St. John Chrysostom: "No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others.  So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great."  Genuine fasting should benefit others.
When speaking of fasting this morning at Mass, Pope Francis said that fasting intertwines the law of loving God and loving our neighbor:  "Love of God and love of our neighbor is one and the same thing and if you want to show genuine and not just formal penance, you must show it before God and also towards your brothers and towards your neighbor.”
Again, as with most thing the media quotes from the Pope, he said nothing new as evidenced by two magnificent verses in today's first reading from Isaiah 58:6-7.  So yes, we can be as pious and remorseful and take up fasting all we want during this Lenten season, but if it doesn't genuinely benefit our neighbor, what good is it doing?