Friday After Ash Wednesday
“Because what’s the point of any of this, if you don’t let it change you?” the retreat speaker said in a quiet fervor. The audience, including myself, squirmed uncomfortably in our seats. He had made a good and gut-punching point, and suddenly the talk on God’s love and will for our lives cut right to the heart of the audience, because what would be the point of talking about holiness and God’s love if we didn’t actually let it change the way we live and think and pray?
In the first reading, the Lord, through the voice of His prophet Isaiah, challenges the people not to just make empty shows of religiosity by much bowing and wearing sackcloth, but to actually fast in ways that challenge them and draw them outside of themselves: “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.” How easy it is to put on sackcloth and ashes and wail in a loud voice and have all the appearances of holiness and penitence, and how difficult it is to draw near to those who are the most in need when I am most in distraction-that’s-not-even-important. “Why should I have to sit and listen to my roommate’s problems when I’ve had a long day and I just need a little bit of personal time to relax and unwind, is that too much to ask?”
The challenge issued to us is to actually let the penitence, the fasting, the discipline of Lent to not just be an empty show, but to actually let it change us and to benefit those in need. True holiness often comes down to the gritty, day-to-day living. That means paying attention to the promptings of the Lord, seeking His will, and choosing to love those around us. Right now, on this first Friday of Lent, as we strive to allow the discipline, penitence, and fasting of Lent to actually change us, let us be assured that our humble and contrite hearts are pleasing to God, that our lives offered as true sacrifices will shine forth like the dawn, and that we can look forward to the eternal wedding feast, rejoicing with the Bridegroom.
Catholic Studies and COJO Student