Today is February 28, 2020 A.D. AD stands not for after death or analog to digital, but Anno Domini. This is a Latin phrase that means in the year of our Lord. We are living in the age of the Church, as well as in between the time when Jesus experienced his life, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven until he will come again.
In the Gospel of Matthew, we read today about the account of Jesus comparing himself to a bridegroom: “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Mt 9:15). In a sense, the bridegroom has been taken from us, in another sense, he is closer to us now than he was when he was with his disciples when he walked the earth. The fullness of his reign though will not be consummated until Jesus comes again, but while we wait, when we are willing to set aside other distractions and be still, we can hear and feel the beating of his Sacred Heart.
We need food for our survival, but we don’t need as much as we think we do! Fasting from food is not the only focus of our Lenten fast. The discipline of fasting provides an opportunity to keep our passions in check. By resisting the impulse of instant gratification, we are able to better discern between apparent goods and the actual Good in our lives. When we are able to navigate through the maze of distractions, temptations, and allurements on a physical level, we can begin to go deeper into the spiritual reality to begin to expose some of the demons that we feed, such as “distrust, apathy, and resignation” that Pope Francis talked about in his Ash Wednesday homily two years ago.
Pope Francis mentioned that these three demons “deaden and paralyze the soul of a believing people.” He continued by stating that: “Lent is the ideal time to unmask these and other temptations, to allow our hearts to beat once more in tune with the vibrant heart of Jesus.”
When we are willing to discipline our impulsiveness, to slow down, to take a breath, to be more mindful, we can begin to see more clearly our complacency, contempt, and indifference. We can then be more open to God’s invitation to enter into relationship with him and each other. We can then better assume the posture of John the Apostle by resting our head on the chest of Jesus (cf John 13:25), such that our hearts will beat in the same rhythm as his Sacred Heart.
This is the gift of contemplation that drives us to service. This is the same rhythm that beat in the prophet Isaiah who reminds us in today’s first reading what true fasting is all about: “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” (Isaiah 58:6-7).