Isaiah 58:1–9a; Psalm 51:3–4, 5–6ab, 18–19; Matthew 9:14–15
Fasting is one of the three traditional ways to observe Lent (prayer and almsgiving are the other two), based on Jesus’ description of them in our Ash Wednesday Gospel.
Today the Scripture readings focus on fasting. The prophet Isaiah chides the people for their behavior on fast days, pursuing evil and not God’s ways. The Lord wants works of justice and compassion connected with fast days. In the Gospel, Jesus explains to the followers of John the Baptist that while he (Jesus) is with his disciples, they will not fast; only after he has left them will they fast.
Sharbel Makhluf was known for both his fasting and his care for those who sought him out for prayer and blessing. Born in a tiny village in Lebanon, he lived as a hermit in the second half of the nineteenth century, in connection with the Monastery of Saint Maron in Annaya, Lebanon. While maintaining his hermit life, he did occasionally bring the sacraments to villagers near the monastery. After his death at age seventy, his tomb became a destination for pilgrims seeking healing.
St. Sharbel is revered in both the Maronite and Roman rites. He offers us guidance for our Lenten fasting as it is combined with both prayer and works of charity.
Consider some kind of fasting as a lenten practice—but make sure it leads you to a deeper awareness of and charity toward those in need.
God of our fasting,
show us how our hunger unites us with those in need of bread,
how letting go of life’s comforts can aid those lacking necessities for life.