In this Jubilee year of Mercy we have been given a grand opportunity to look more deeply at ways to walk along in the journey of death through and to the life Jesus gave us by His Resurrection. During Lent we are called to prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Doing all of these along our journey that will help us celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Isaiah 58:6-10 we find the type of fasting that many may find a bit unusual. It says, "Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke? Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry, bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn." What? I thought fasting was not eating foods all day and offering that suffering to the Lord. Yet the Lord is saying what good is that fasting if you are not being merciful towards other. He would prefer that we fast by doing what Isaiah tells us.
A couple people who I see as modelers of this type of fasting is Blessed Mother Teresa and St. Peter Claver. In September 2016, Blessed Mother Teresa will be canonized. This year of Mercy there could be no better model than Blessed Mother Teresa of compassion and mercy toward others, especially the poor. She followed the type of fast that the Lord is seeking from us. Her gift of mercy was so obvious. Blessed Mother Teresa really loved and showed tenderness toward people, especially those who needed it most the homeless, the sick and the hungry. She was a model for us on how to love one person at a time, one day at a time.
St. Peter Claver, SJ, is another model for us of mercy and compassion. His ministry brought him toward serving the slaves that were brought in the port in Columbia in the 1600s as they waited to be sold in South America. He would to go around begging for food to help feed them. He use to take care of those who had been treated so viciously on their journey. Many were sick. He not only fed their physical hunger but also fed them spiritually. St. Peter Claver often said, "We must speak to them with our hands before we try to speak to them with our lips."
Throughout Jesus' journey here on earth, He did not merely talk about love in the most generous and merciful way through so many of His interactions. He gave His very life for the sins of the world. He did this for your sins and for mine. "The Lord has taken the initiative, He has loved us first," Pope Francis reminds us, "and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast. Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father's infinite mercy. Let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved," (Evangelii Gaudium, 24).