March 4, 2017
"Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just
and not abandoned the law of their God;
They ask me to declare what is due them,
pleased to gain access to God.
"Why do we fast, and you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?"
Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.
Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
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?
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."
Dear fellow pilgrims,
I greet you from a quiet evening moment on my futon, with little Leo sleeping in his rocker in front of me (so I can make sure his startle reflex doesn't toss the blanket onto his face...). Aidan and I just finished up a conversation about how we are adjusting to this new life with baby, and I think we both decided we want to be more spiritually present with Leo, rather than just carrying an attitude of caring for him as work, tasks we fulfill. It turns out, there's a lot to learn about being a parent, and especially with how to really love your child through all of the tasks for even their most basic care. Aidan and I are just learning and getting the hang of "going through the motions" of parenting, and although they are very important "motions," we both desire to engage with them in a deeper and more meaningful, deliberate, spiritual way.
Similarly, the first reading today touches on the large difference in disposition between "going through the motions" of fasting and truly fasting for the purposes God intends. The big difference between the type of person who seeks attention and validation for fasting ("Why do we fast, and you do not see it? afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?") and the type of person who follows the ways of fasting ordained by God is who is most served by the fast. Those who look for validation in their fast, the "wicked ones," are wicked because their fast is self-serving, whereas, God's instructions are all other-focused (because God IS love, and love always places the other before the self).
I guess I see the connection between the first and second paragraph because when I view childcare as "work," the tendency to make my "success" about the extent to which I am an effective caregiver is self-centered and empty. However, when I view childcare as focused on the success of Leo's needs being provided for, how purely I act for his good, and how much I keep my love for him in mind as the main motivation of my actions (and this is very hard, but a good fight to have within myself...), I am fasting in that I am purifying my heart from being self-focused and more other-focused, in accordance with my vocation.
I encourage us all to search our hearts and our chosen fasts this Lent and ask God to reveal to us how we can make our fasts more other-centered, God-centered, and less self-centered. I also ask for prayer for my physical recovery from labor and delivery, and for God's continued protection on Leo in his first month of life. :)