Why do we fast? To gain freedom from the grip of our bad habits or vices, to be in solidarity with those who are suffering, or to create a space within ourselves for more spiritual things. To concretely show our hunger and need for God. Whatever form our fasting takes, we need to do it with joy or else it is pointless.
Today is traditionally called Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday,” the day before Ash Wednesday. It was a time to use up all food products that could not be eaten during the Lenten fast. Most people think of Mardi Gras as the parade in New Orleans. The same sort of process happened to what was called “Carnival” literally in Latin “carne vale” or “farewell to meat.” Now, it is the major parade in Rio. What we should be doing is thinking of how we will spend this Lenten Season of 2018. If at the end of Lent we are no closer to God than when we began, then this sacred season will be a loss. Let’s grow together this Lent!
(1 Kings 12:26-32) Jeroboam had been the prefect of forced labor (of the 10 tribes of the North) under King Solomon. After Solomon’s death, he led a revolt and had himself made King of the North and called it “Israel.” David’s son, Rehoboam was King of the South, now called “Judah.” So, the Kingdom joined together by David didn’t last and was now split. Jeroboam didn’t want his people to go to Jerusalem in Judah to worship, so he sent up 2 golden calves and proclaimed them god, an act of idolatry. (Sound familiar) Do we have false gods in our lives: money, houses, drink, drugs, sex, etc. Idols come in varied shapes and sizes. Look around and see if there are golden calves around that we may not even be aware of.
There are three accounts of Paul’s conversion in the Acts of the Apostles. So, it was very important. On that road to Damascus, something happened to Paul that radically changed him (by the way, there is no reference to falling off a horse as in the famous painting). Christ, “and Him crucified,” was always at the center of Paul’s spirituality and preaching. The cross needs to be at the heart of our spirituality, as well.
Today is the Required Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. St. Francis was a highly influential spiritual director, author and preacher post the Protestant Reformation. He showed gentle love and compassion for all men. He believed that spirituality was not something just for the monks and priests but for all men and that one’s devotional life had to be adjusted to one’s state in life. Moreover, any devotion had to lead to being of service to our fellow-man.
“Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” The first reading is a call to action; to put into deeds the love we profess to have. We can do this by taking care of those less fortunate than ourselves. John tells us that talk is cheap; we need to act.
The person on the first page of the US Catechism (partially written by my homiletics instructor, Fr. Alfred McBride) is Elizabeth Ann Seton. Born in 1774, in New York City, she married and had several children. Her husband died and this Episcopalian came into contact with some strong Roman Catholics; she came into full communion with the Catholic Church. She founded the Sisters of Charity in USA. Her story demonstrates human longing for God. As a woman who lived as a wife, mother, widow, religious sister, and Foundress, she has much to teach us. She answered the call.