What will we fast from — and feast on — this Lent?

By: By Sharon Priester

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, March 2

Isaiah 49:14-15; Psalm 62:2-3,67,8-9; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34

This week’s first reading begins with, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” The Israelites in exile are discouraged, ready to give up. There probably have been times in our lives that we also felt discouraged. Mine was a few years ago as I was going through chemotherapy.

I remember feeling absolutely horrible, wondering, “Why is this happening God? Will I ever feel better? Please help me.” My days consisted of worrying if I would survive, worrying about the way I felt, worrying about everything every day. Many times, my husband would sit with me, reassuring me that I would get better, encouraging me to have faith and trust in God.

Isaiah, too, reassures the people of Zion. He first reminded them of the love a mother has for the child in her womb. He then goes on to tell them that God’s love for them is so much greater than their mothers. A mother might forget her child, but God will never forget them.

Worry is a big part of our life. We worry about so many things — paying the bills, having the roof repaired, getting a new furnace, what to wear to the party, having the perfect job, having the perfect vacation, etc., etc. How much time do we spend stewing about these things? Have these things become “the master” of our lives, controlling what we do?

GOD WILL PROVIDE
In the Gospel, Jesus tells his followers they can’t have two masters: “You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Mammon is a word meaning wealth or property.) He goes on to tell them they don’t have to worry about the bills, the roof, a new furnace, etc. Using an example of how the birds are given food and barns to stay in, Jesus reminds the disciples that the Father feeds these birds and takes care of them. He tells them to think about the flowers that God has clothed in splendor and the grass that may grow one day and be thrown into the fire the next. Jesus says to the people and to those of us who are “of little faith” that if we have faith in God and his righteousness, he will give us all that we need. There is no need to worry. He will provide.

This week we begin Lent, a time of preparation for Easter, a time for prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The readings this week give us some things to remember — God will never forget us. He will provide for us and is the only one who can judge us.

Maybe there are some things in our life that prevent us from remembering these things. Maybe we are too focused on power, wealth or luxury. Pope Francis said in his Lenten message, “When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.”

BETTER SERVANTS
This Lenten season, let us take more time to pray and reflect on the Word of God. Start by rereading this week’s passages.

Let us also be a better servant/disciple of God, by reaching out to those in need. Let us skip the fasting from just chocolate or snacks. Instead, let us fast from worry and feast on the blessings you’ve received; fast from pride and feast on humility; fast from searching for happiness and feast on bringing happiness to others; fast from reshaping the world around you and feast on the peace of following the will of God.

Let us also remember the words of the Responsorial Psalm: “Rest in God alone, my soul. . . . He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed at all. . . . Trust in him at all time, O my people! Pour out your hearts before him.”

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SHARON PRIESTER has served as a parish catechist and director of religious education, Bible study leader, RCIA team member and coordinator, and regional director of religious education for the Diocese of Peoria. She is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington.

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