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Going Deeper – Gospel Reflections

Readings for Friday 2/19/2021

Reading I

Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just
and not abandoned the law of their God;
They ask me to declare what is due them,
pleased to gain access to God.
“Why do we fast, and you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”

Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.
Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
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.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

Responsorial Psalm

R.    (19b) A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R.    A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.”
R.    A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R.    A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

Verse before the Gospel

Seek good and not evil so that you may live,
and the Lord will be with you.

Gospel

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
“Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast.”

The Transforming Power of Fasting

“The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Matthew 9:15

Our appetites and fleshly desires can easily cloud our thinking and keep us from desiring only God and His holy will. Therefore, in order to curb one’s disordered appetites, it is useful to mortify them by acts of self-denial, such as fasting. But during Jesus’ public ministry, when He was daily with His disciples, it appears that self-denial was unnecessary for His disciples. One can only speculate that this was because Jesus was so intimately present to them every day that His divine presence sufficed to curb any and every disordered affection.

But the day did come when Jesus was taken away from them—first by His death, and then shortly after by His Ascension into Heaven. After the Ascension and Pentecost, Jesus’ relationship with His disciples changed. It was no longer a tangible and physical presence. It was no longer a daily dose of authoritative teaching and inspiring miracles that they saw. Instead, their relationship with our Lord began to take on a new dimension of conformity to Jesus’ Passion. The disciples were now being called to imitate our Lord by turning their eyes of faith to Him interiorly, and exteriorly acting as His instrument of sacrificial love. And for that reason, the disciples needed their passions and fleshly appetites under control. Hence, after Jesus’ Ascension and with the beginning of the disciples’ public ministry, they greatly benefitted from fasting and all other forms of mortification.

Each one of us is called to be not only a follower of Christ (a disciple) but also an instrument of Christ (an apostle). And if we are to fulfill these roles well, our disordered fleshly appetites cannot get in the way. We need to allow the Spirit of God to consume us and lead us in all that we do. Fasting and all other forms of mortification help us to stay focused upon the Spirit rather than upon our weaknesses and fleshly temptations.

Reflect, today, upon the importance of fasting and mortification of the flesh. These penitential acts are not usually desirable at first. But that’s the key. By doing that which our flesh does not “desire,” we strengthen our spirit to take greater control, which enables our Lord to use us and direct our actions more effectively. Commit yourself to this holy practice and you will be amazed at how transforming it will be.

My dear Lord, I thank You for choosing to use me as Your instrument. I thank You that I may be sent by You to share Your love with the world. Give me the grace to conform myself more fully to You by mortifying my disordered appetites and desires so that You and You alone can take complete control of my life. May I be open to the gift of fasting and may this penitential act help to transform my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Source of content: mycatholic.life