By. Fr. Andrew Carl Wisdom, OP
You came alive spiritually at the moment of your baptism. Your parents made that decision for your spiritual well-being as they made so many other decisions for your physical, mental and spiritual well-being. That decision was confirmed by you. Lent is a time to renew what both of those moments were really all about: Developing the most important relationship in your life–even more important than a wife husband or friend–your intimate friendship with Christ. How can you develop any relationship if you don’t talk to the person on a regular basis? How can you develop a relationship with someone you don’t listen to, who may speak to us through other human voices or the intuitions of our hearts or our feelings?
Fasting involves knowing the difference between needs and wants. We live in a society and a contemporary culture that is excess-oriented—we can never get enough and this is what the advertisers want us to think. Have you seen the advertising for Sprite: Obey your Thirst? Lent is all about stepping back and reflecting for a moment on whether or not I am rewarding my deepest curiosity or obeying my deepest thirst. O lord, our hearts were mad for you and will only rest when they rest in you! That is the meaning of life. That is the deepest meaning of your identity; you made by God sent here to do a specific unique work that no one else can do but you and one day you will return to God and say this is what I did with the life gifts and talents you gave me to make the world a better place. You see, we do have to account to God for what he has give us, but not like going to an IRS representative and accounting for each fault committed, but like going to a parent or teacher and saying this is what I did with what you taught me, the values you gave me the challenges you offered me along the way.
As Dominicans we follow the Rule of St. Augustine as a way to govern our religious life. It’s the set of the ideals we always want to live by as community members committed to Jesus’ mission in today’s’ world. As far back as the 4th century, St. Augustine prayed: “Oh, God, you have made us for yourself and our hearts will not rest until they rest in you.” After a long journey to God with a lot of mistakes along the way, Augustine realized that what he really wanted deep down was God. He was looking, like the old song goes, for love in all the wrongs places. If he wanted to know God the way one knows and loves a close friend, like a soul mate, he would have to start doing something different in his life, something that would put that friendship front and center. He sold what he had and gave it to the poor, began to pray every day and fasted not so much from food like we may think of it but from all those impulses in his life that took him away from the one thing he wanted more then anything; to know God as his intimate friend.
Jesus offers us that same map that will lead to an intimate relationship with God. He says when you gives alms, an old fashioned way of saying when you give to the poor, do it not for your self by showing off and bragging about it, but as a measure of your desire to love God. And go to your room and pray, knowing that God hears and treasures every word of yours. And finally, fast. But do so cheerfully, not with gloomy faces. What worth is a gift that is given begrudgingly? What does this mean for us today in the 21st century: Are there not those poor among us in shelters and soups kitchens and out on the streets, some obviously without all the material things we have. Perhaps, more important are those who are emotionally poor among us, who we know struggle with difficult relationships with their parents, or some physical liability—how do we treat them?
Continue to follow the white habit throughout Lent. Send us your questions, and share this series with your friends and family.
God bless you!
Fr. Andrew Carl Wisdom, OP