THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for Friday after Ash Wednesday, February 20th, 2015
Liturgical texts here
THE animal kingdom is essentially content. Birds are content. Fish are content. But the human heart is not. We are restless and unsatisfied, constantly searching for fulfillment in myriad forms. We are in an endless pursuit of pleasure as the world spins its advertisements promising happiness, but delivering only pleasure—fleeting pleasure, as if that were an end in itself. Why then, after buying the lie, do we inevitably continue seeking, searching, hunting for meaning and worth?
It is the wound of Eden. It is the lingering pain of an ancient broken trust. It is the contusion of lost communion with God and each other.
They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways… “Why do we fast, and you do not see it? Afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?” (First reading)
The Lord does not see our fasting if it is an end in itself, as if we are adding to a score. Does God really care if you give up chocolate for Lent? Rather, true fasting is the act of turning one’s eyes from the temporal to the eternal. Fasting, rituals, symbols, prayers… all of it is a means to help us turn our hearts to God. Nearly every religion in the world is simply an expression of this innate longing for communion with God (and in truth, a remarkable truth at that, God is longing for us):
Prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him. –Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2560
And so we are wounded, and we cry out in prayer… but to whom? Jesus Christ is the answer to this wound: By His wounds we are healed.  Jesus’ face gives us a concrete place to fix our eyes; through the Eucharist, a concrete means to touch Him; through Confession, a concrete means to hear Him pronounce His mercy. The heart begins to be healed when we realize that we are so loved by God that He sent His only Son, and we put our trust in Him:
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn. (Today’s Psalm)
Yet, Jesus taught us that the wound of Eden will never be completely healed by an inward glance only, as if religion were a merely subjective pursuit. As Pope Benedict asked:
How could the idea have developed that Jesus’s message is narrowly individualistic and aimed only at each person singly? How did we arrive at this interpretation of the “salvation of the soul” as a flight from responsibility for the whole, and how did we come to conceive the Christian project as a selfish search for salvation which rejects the idea of serving others? —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Spe Salvi, n. 16
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. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed… (First reading)
To love God and neighbour: these, Jesus said, are the greatest commandments because in these alone will the human heart be restored to its full dignity, and find its rest.
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Spend 5 minutes a day with Mark, meditating upon the daily Now Word in the Mass readings
for these forty days of Lent.
A sacrifice that will feed your soul!
- cf. 1 Pet 2:24