By Br. Ian Joeffrey Melendres, OP
February 18, 2017
1st Reading: GN 9:8-15, Responsorial Psalm: Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 2nd Reading: 1 PT 3:18-22, Gospel: Mark 1:12-15
On this First Sunday of Lent, the Gospel tells us how and why do we observe certain acts of penance during Lent. The Gospel relates the desert experience of Jesus where he fasted, prayed and overcome temptations.
As exemplified by Jesus, we are called to fast and pray. Along with these are abstinence and charitable acts such as alms-giving (Cf. Tob 12:8; Mt 6:1-18; CCC 1434). Through fasting, we develop continence and self-denial of food as well as other forms of sacrifice such as lessening our time in watching TV or movies, reducing the use of gadgets and social media. In short, we really have to sacrifice. Prayer accompanies fasting knowing that we cannot attain genuine sacrifice without calling out to God. And our sacrifices must also incline us toward charitable acts such as alms giving because true sacrifice is not selfish but selfless.
Jesus, on the other hand, observes self-denial not because he wants to attain self-mastery. No, his greatest intention is to fulfill his mission.
But then, why do we really need to do them? What inspires us to fast, abstain, pray, give alms? Perhaps, for some of us, we may be driven by mere conformity because many are doing them; worse, we do them only for appearances like hypocrites. Well, motivations could also be noble such as losing weight to be healthy, or mastering self-discipline. Yet left to themselves, they could be vain. Jesus, on the other hand, observes self-denial not because he wants to attain self-mastery. No, his greatest intention is to fulfill his mission. In other words, he bears in mind the act of saving us. Such act of great sacrifice—an act of great love. In other words, what inspires Christ to fast and pray is basically love. That is why his greatest act of sacrifice—that of laying down himself on the cross for our sake—is also the greatest act of love.
“what inspires Christ to fast and pray is basically love.”
As St. John writes, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Also St. Peter reminds us in our Second reading to remember how Christ died once and for all, for our sins (1 Peter 3:18). So on our part, may we also be inspired to fast, abstain, pray, and give alms in participation with Christ’s love. After all, we may be able to “sacrifice” somehow without loving but we can never love without sacrificing.