There are three things, my brethren, by which faith stands firm, devotion remains constant, and virtue endures. They are prayer, fasting and mercy. Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains, mercy receives. Prayer, mercy and fasting: these three are one, and they give life to each other. (Saint Peter Chrysologus)
The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent. (Code of Canon Law 1250)
What is Fast?
“Properly speaking fasting consists in abstaining from food, but speaking metaphorically it denotes abstinence from anything harmful, and such especially is sin.” (IIa IIae, Q147, a.2 ad.1)
Why do we Fast?
According to Saint Thomas Aquinas for three reasons: ” First, in order to bridle the lusts of the flesh, wherefore the Apostle says (2 Cor. 6:5, 6): “In fasting, in chastity,” since fasting is the guardian of chastity(…) Secondly, we have recourse to fasting in order that the mind may arise more freely to the contemplation of heavenly things (…) Thirdly, in order to satisfy for sins: wherefore it is written (Joel 2:12): “Be converted to Me with all your heart, in fasting and in weeping and in mourning.””(IIa IIae, Q147, a.1)
Extracts of the Apostolic constitution Paenitemini (February 17, 1966)
“Abstinence is to be observed on every Friday which does not fall on a day of obligation, while abstinence and fast is to be observed on Ash Wednesday.” (Chapter III, II, 2)
“The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat. The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing—as far as quantity and quality are concerned—approved local custom.” (Chapter III, III, 1-2)
A person who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain for at least one hour before holy communion from any food and drink, except for only water and medicine. (Code of Canon Law 919)
Fasting in the Old Testament:
in the aftermath of sin to placate the wrath of God
1 Sam. 7:6;
1 Kings 21:20-21, 27;
Jer. 3:3, 7, 9;
John 1:2; 3:4-5
on the occasion of grave calamities
1 Sam. 31:13;
2 Sam. 1:12; 3:35;
Baruch 1:2, 5;
when special dangers are imminent
Judith 4:8, 12; 8:10-16;
Esther 3:15; 4:1, 16;
2 Chron. 20:3
in any case to obtain benefits from the Lord
1 Sam. 14:24;
2 Sam. 12:16, 22;
external penitential practices are accompanied by an inner attitude of “conversion,”
1 Sam. 7:3;
Judith 8:16- 17;
Zach. 8:9, 21.
Jesus said to the crowds:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Mt 13:44-46)
Whenever I read this passage, I get strongly questioned. That Jesus is my pearl, I have no doubt. What wonder is if I’m ever selling my other goods to keep the One who’s good.
Yes, because it is past time that I had a sweet idea that you had to leave everything once for all. And at the beginning of the way, leave everything to God is so exciting! An almost certain consequence of an inflamed heart by the first love.
But when time passes and the Pearl begins to give us treasures and the challenges to stay on the path becomes very concrete and leaving all is no longer something that is only driven by emotion, reason gained more weight and the heart, that has been tested and proven by the fire of purification, seems a little more weak …
So I ask myself today: Would I sell it all again to be with Jesus and all that His holly Will chose for me? At this time, I remember what St. Teresa of Avila said, “If I had a thousand lives, Lord, you give a thousand lives.” But today, would I sell everything? would I leave everything? Would I resume the search for the Single Treasury?
Of course! No more through my strength, no longer driven by the lure of first love, no longer by persons or structures, no longer up for the benefits received by him on the way …But only for Him
Because until now, everything is gaining a price, a value, a weight. It seems that time has its ways of giving parameters and value to what we have. But today, the only priceless thing, countless and invaluable in my life is still God. The Pearl.
Today the decision costs more. It is less flowery. But it is more concrete. And even firmer. Even more impressive is that the crushed heart and reason without illusions seem to love God, more today than yesterday. Funny the way that God uses to enchant, to conquer … It is even true Perl, nothing to do lose their luster. Neither time nor pain.
Some time ago I did one of those little quizzes from Facebook, asking: How Canadian are you, eh?” It asked me questions only Canadians would understand (I’m exaggerating but some answers are understandable only by those who spent some time on the great North).
Today I was asking myself, is it by knowledge we can consider ourselves Christians? Is it knowing about our faith and the dogma by heart that we can consider ourselves really Christians? What is “the example” of a Christian? asking myself this last question I realized the answer was simpler than I thought: Holiness.
Holiness as letting God be God in our lives. Holiness is not the contrary of a life of sin. We are sinners and we will always be, so as we’re not surprised to see an orange in an orange tree we’re not suppose to be impressed to see sins in a sinner. Let me explain myself, this is not a matter of letting go and let sin reign in our lives, it is a matter of fighting to live virtues. St Thomas Aquinas I don’t know where tells us exactly that , we should fight sin by virtue. Our battle is towards the good not against evil. One can put eyes on the goal or look at the stones on the way, but I can guarantee you the one who keeps looking to the goal will endure everything to get there, but he one who look only to the obstacles will loose courage one day or another.
So the thing is not to look at ourselves or to our sins or (what is worse) to our neighbors sins because we are going to fall into sin for the rest of our lives. Just know that those who look at Jesus and try to be as He is “gentle and humble in heart”(Mt11.29) “will sprout wings like eagles, though they run they will not grow weary, though they walk they will never tire” (Is 40.31).
Let us pray for each other.
This is the title we, in Shalom community, give to Jesus. That means a lot and I won’t be able to talk about every aspect of this title but there is one I’d like to talk about this Holy week.
Once He was risen from the dead He didn’t erase the marks of the cross. Why was that? I’m no theologian and I don’t intend to give lessons on the reasons He had, I just want to share a bit of my personal experience with this risen Christ and what it does mean to me to see and touch His glorified wounds.
Showing His glorious wounds to Saint Thomas Jesus wasn’t only confirming it was really Him; He was showing what He has been through and also His actual condition of risen. For me it sounds like: “Don’t worry if you have to pass through all this you’re passing, resurrection is waiting for you”. Or even more (and that’s what makes my soul melt), I don’t need to heal your wounds because it is thanks to them that you’re going to witness your own resurrection to your brothers. So even though you’re hurt and you feel all the pain and suffering as consequences of your own sins just know that Jesus can make out of those very same wounds signs of your resurrection for others to see His power.
Think about this before you ask for healing of your wounds(2Cor 12, 7-9). If you have to fight for patience every day remember that having this wound in you can be a sign of the power of Christ’s resurrection acting in you for the edification of your closest neighbors. During the celebrations of this holly week let us remember that all the pain and sufferings our Lord has lived aren’t in vain but they are a reminder that our wounds are also going to end up in resurrection. I’m not talking about the eternal life I’m talking here on this earth. One day we’ll be able to say to our brothers: “Here, touch this wound of mine, I was hurt by this world as you are today, but Christ is risen, He raised me up with Him and He can make you a new person just as He did with me.” Your wounds shouldn’t be the center of your attentions, neither the claim for healing the center of your prayers, let God be God and do whatever He pleases with your life and you’ll see your wounds shining as a sign of His resurrection in your life. You’ll be able to say: “I wasn’t capable of forgiving but now Christ is risen and I could forgive everyone who have hurt me one day”.
I pray that you in this Holy week can celebrate the mysteries of the death and resurrection of the Christ in a new perspective, the one of your own resurrection with Him in this life and in the hope for the next one.
As I was praying yesterday before the Blessed Sacrament I opened the Bible in no specific book as a form of letting myself be guided by His providence to read what He wanted to say to me that moment. The book I opened in was the book of Tobit. (I feel sorry for our brothers protestants that don’t accept this book as part of revelation, they’re loosing a lot of the revelation on divine providence)
That made me pray a lot with His providence in the lives of those characters not very much known by a big part of Christians. I know I don’t have much time to write today but I want to share what is most touching for me in this book.
Both Tobiah and Sarah raised their prayer to the Lord asking to die and end up with the sufferings they were enduring. As The book goes on we see that Raphael was the angel in charge of taking their prayers and presenting them to God. But what impresses me the most is the way their prayer is listened by God.
Tobiah asked to die and God healed hies eyes, gave him fortune and a daughter-in-law of his own kindred (which wans’t easy in his condition of exiled).
Sarah also asked to die and the Lord gave her the husband Faithful to His commandments.
Whats my point? Lets just pray knowing that God Knows what is best for us. Every time I read the book of Tobit I’m renewed in my confidence that the Lord Knows best what is good for me and even though I think I’m not being listened because things around me aren’t going where I want them to go I just Know God has something way better prepared for me Just around the corner.
Lesson leaned from the lectio Divina, God hasn’t set a trap to catch me, it is actually the contrary, He has a better life waiting for me if I let his angels help me.
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Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”
I see! What my eyes open! I need a deeper look and more time looking at what’s inside. I want my vision beyond the walls and do not stop at appearances. I want more than one sense, do not want to see without seeing. I need a closer look, a different way of seeing, a magnifying lens and an expanded horizon. I want to see the hidden and finding what is lost. I look at the sale without fear. I look through the heart. Want to learn to contemplate. I see hope, memories and aim to review the present. I see beyond me. I look over the other, at length, discovering who he is. I want the vision of complicity, the look of respect and love the glasses. I look concentrated, with the fixed point on the essentials. Do not want to do only with your eyes, I see by faith. I see with new eyes. I see what God wants.
I’ve been praying with this passage for a long time and I wanted to share with you some of the fruits the meditation of it has given me but I didn’t know how because it is so deep. Then My father gave me the idea of sharing some of his texts with you and here it goes.
For those who do not know my Father writes for Shalom Maná, a monthly magazine of the Shalom Community. Every month he gives some guidelines to help us in our Divine Reading, I hope it may help you.
Lectio Divina / Divine Reading
Translated from: Jose Ricardo F. Bezerra. (My Father BTW)
As we always do before start reading, let us ask the Holy Spirit’s help. Let us pray: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. Let us pray. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.”
You who are a reader of the Shalom Manna Magazine know the purpose of this section is to get you to read, meditate and pray with the Word of God through the ancient and proven method of the Lectio Divina which consists of four steps: reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation.
Take today’s passage of the Letter of Paul to the Romans, chapter 5, verses 1 to 11 (Rom 5:1-11) and let us do our lectio this day. Read slowly, the middle voice, the verses indicated.
As you could have seen this passage is of great beauty and depth. But our goal here is not to know or study the theological ramifications that it offers. We want to, through this reading and meditation, pray and allow the Lord to enlighten us.
The Apostle explains the relations between faith, hope and love in the midst of tribulations we pass in life and after a chain of words he concludes by saying that “hope does not disappoint …” (v.5). How many times we have suffered disappointments, isn’t it? These unpleasing surprises are part of our day-to-day. We create expectations about things and people and when they do not happen, there comes disappointment. But God’s Word comes today to show us something that does not disappoint: Hope! You believe that? And there’s a reason why it, hope, does not disappoint. It is because, the passage continues, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us.” God’s love is the guarantee. God is faithful and when we put our hope in Him we can be sure that He will always give us the best. Have you ever felt that love in your heart? It Maybe pass through your head this thinking: “But I do not deserve …” Nobody deserves it! God’s love is free love, we haven’t done anything to deserve it. And it is the Holy Spirit received in our baptism who pours this love. And mind it, it is poured, giving the idea of abundance that is particular to God himself. Take a moment and think. Are you disappointed? Disappointed with something? Put your hope in the Lord, for He does not disappoint.
St. Paul goes on showing another truth. “Hardly anyone gives life to the just … But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners.” In the dialogue with Nicodemus, Jesus had already revealed that this is one of the greatest truths of the Bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (Jn 3:16). What an incomparable grace, isn’t it? The Father, moved by love, sent us Jesus who died to give us salvation, eternal life. Blessed love that gives us so undeserved gift! Meditate and pray about it.
Read the passage again. See other points. St. Paul says that faith gives us peace in God (cf. v. 1). How different is the lives of those who have faith … You notice the value he attaches to the trials. They generate perseverance. So do not be slaughtered when you go through great difficulties. Know that they will produce perseverance. And this will lead you to having a proven virtue. Well, the virtue will lead us to hope that will lead us to God. God is Love! God is our hope that does not disappoint! God is faithful!
How many things the Lord has inspired us to pray with this lectio, isn’t it? Resume your prayer by praising Him and thanking Him for this wonderful love of a Father. Keep thanking Him for the love of Jesus who gave His life on the cross for us. Praise the Holy Spirit, Who is the love of the Father and of the Son Who pours Himself into our hearts … Thank also for the trials and difficulties, however painful they are, because they can become powerful ways to draw us closer to God. Continue your prayer in the way that the Spirit leads you… Contemplate at last, the glory of heaven that God has prepared for those who love him …
At the end of the Lectio, remember to take your notebook and write down the prayer of thanks that the Lord made you experience. If you can write to us giving your witnessing . It is a joy to have you as a reader. (See the addresses on the back cover of this magazine or my email firstname.lastname@example.org.) (Or comment this post)
O God, Who has sent into this world your only Son to free mankind of old slavery, grant those who hope in your mercy to achieve true freedom. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
O Mary, Queen of Sinners and Comforter of the afflicted, pray for us!
See you next month!
For those who want to learn more about lectio divina this post may help.
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