During Lent, God presents us with a fundamental choice. Will we choose to continue to live in our human illusions or will we allow God to reveal His reality to us? Will we cling to false pride or embrace true humility? All too often we think we are more humble than we really are, especially if we have been striving to grow spiritually for a long time.
The Pharisees were also earnest about their religious practices. As Christians, it is easy to denigrate the Jewish Pharisees, thinking we have risen above such behaviour because we live in New Testament times, no longer under the burden of the Old Testament Laws. However, before we judge these men too harshly, we should remember they were simply striving to be good, observant Jews. In their zeal, they inadvertently ended up seeking respect for themselves rather than inspiring love for God.
When Religious Duty Becomes a Burden Rather Than a Joy
Through My Own Efforts.
Lent is Not an Excuse for Dramatic Acts
Lent is a time to get rid of the flub in our lives but only so we are able to connect more to the Heart of our Beloved, more on the people around us who are in need. Lent is not an excuse for dramatic acts of fasting by wearing sackcloth and ashes, figuratively or literally. As Isaiah says:
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?
God answers this rhetorical question with a resounding, “NO”.
Our Father is not interested in such spectacles which simply focus on ourselves and our sins. As mortals. we are all the same. As St. Paul says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans: 3:23). This fact is a given. The truly repentant man, the sort of man who is acceptable to God, has a contrite heart.
A repentant man is contrite, humbly acknowledging his sin in simplicity, trusting more in God’s mercy than any of his own heroic acts of supposed repentance. It is God alone who washes us from guilt, who cleanses us from sin. He is not concerned with mere outer actions of repentance like sacrifices but on our inner attitude. Only a humble and contrite heart will do.
Not only is God looking for an attitude of true humility but He desires positive actions.
We all fall into the dubious habit of asking, ” So, what are you giving up for Lent this year?” Wrong question folks. Isaiah is quite clear,
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.
Reality is Joyful
Scripture promises the children of God will experience glorious joy, inspiring hope in all of us mere humans. Our small acts of mercy, love and concern will shine like beacons of light in this world of ours. God will forgive us and vindicate us. He will answer our prayers with mercy because we have shown mercy in positive acts of love and concern to those in need. We are no longer the centre of our little universe. We have plunged ourselves into the Mystical Body of Christ and are filled with His light, joy, and most of all we are filled with His love. This is the Christian reality.