Father David's Reflection for Friday after Ash Wednesday
Isaiah 58: 1-9 tells us to quit playing games with God. We ask God why he is not coming through for us: "Why do we fast, and you do not see it?" We think we are leading good Christian lives because we do all the "religious" things we have been taught to do. Why doesn't our religion pay off for us?
Many people stop going to Mass because it "never meant anything" to them when they did go. God's question is, "Did you think it was enough just to be there? That I just wanted your body in the pew? What did you say to me when you were there? Did you listen to what I was saying to you?"
He asks the same question of those who do go to Mass but whose lives don't express what the Mass does. If we do not offer ourselves - all we do, all we have, all our time and energy - with Jesus on the cross, offering our bodies and all we do with them to help others, our "flesh for the life of the world," do we think we have really participated in the Mass?
Lent is a time to change our mind and change our ways. We might begin by changing the way we take part in the Mass. Listen to the words. Ask what the presiding priest is really saying to God up there in your name. Say the words with him in your heart - and mean them!
In Matthew 9: 14-15 Jesus teaches us that the important thing in religion is not what we do, but what we are expressing through what we do. The Pharisees fasted just because it was "the thing to do" if you were religious. Jesus asks what they were expressing through their fasting. If it was hunger for God, the hunger of their hearts brought into conscious awareness through physical hunger, then his disciples did not fast because Jesus, whom they were really hungering for, was physically present to them. "How can the wedding guests go in mourning so long as the groom is with them?" But "When the day comes that the groom is taken away, then they will fast."
In the Mass, before Communion, the Church awakens our desire for Christ as "bridegroom." The liturgy quotes the book of Revelation which, like Jesus, describes heaven as a wedding feast: "The marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.. Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19: 7-9). What are you thinking about when you receive Communion? Are you focusing your desire passionately on union with Jesus?
Initiative: Be a disciple. Pay attention to what God is expressing to you in the Mass and what you are expressing to God - and to the human race.