Friday after Ash Wednesday
As we begin the journey of Lent, conversations with my family and friends frequently compare what we have “given up.” Coffee, chocolate, ice cream, alcohol...we give up what we enjoy as a way of sacrificing during the 40 days that are meant to make us more thoughtful, more prayerful, more reliant on God for strength and perseverance. By “giving up,” we can “give over” to God.
But I often am stuck on this. Certainly sacrifice is important – if anything means anything to you, it is worthy of sacrifice. Sacrifice is the action of our beliefs, demonstrating what we value in our lives. For a few years, I opted to do something extra – something active – rather than give something up, reflecting a little more of Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel. Today, we read in Isaiah what God expects of us in our fasting, and I realize it speaks to why I decided I wanted to do something extra AND give something up:
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.
In the years I did something extra, I certainly was more aware, but I had forgotten what I needed to really motivate an authentic response to what and whom I was seeing around me. These readings remind me of the importance of combining quiet, prayerful reflection, mindfulness through sacrifice, and time to allow me to hear who God is calling me to be throughout Lent…and after.
Gracious God, help us not only to give up things this Lent, but to remember the importance of giving ourselves over to You. Remind us of what we are called to do and who we are called to be – all possible with Your grace, mercy and love.
Heidi St. Peter, ‘96, Director of MOVE (Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts)
First Reading: Isaiah 58:1-9a
Psalm 51:3-6a, 18-9
Gospel: Matthew 9:14-15
Daily Scripture readings can be found online at the USCCB website