||Deacon Joe Hulway
||March 1, 2010
"Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?"
|We often have a lot of questions we would like to ask Jesus, but in the gospels we can also reflect on a lot of the
questions that Jesus asks of others, and indirectly of us. This month's question is addressed to the Pharisees and
scribes who questioned Jesus about why His disciples did not fast like themselves. Fasting is one of the three key
Lenten practices, along with prayer and charitable works (also called almsgiving). And so I thought it would be good to
touch on a few concepts regarding fasting. Jesus tells the Pharisees that there is a proper time for fasting. And so we
can consider our own fasting to see if it is done with the proper motivation and intention, or if we are simply fasting to be
obedient to the rules and to impress others like the Pharisees.
- Every Ash Wednesday we hear the gospel story from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says: "When you
fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to
others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your
head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you" (Mt. 6:16-18). It is a reminder not to moan and groan
about how difficult our fasting is in an attempt to impress others. When we fast we should fast quietly so that only
- While we should fast at other times throughout the year as well, during Lent we are called to increase our practice
of fasting. The Church sets some specific fasting and abstinence rules for us which are much reduced from the
old days. Most will want to add additional fasting practices to their Lenten journey, but those additions are
between the individual and God. We should not let others impose their rules on us. Some might give up drinking
for Lent and yet want to celebrate St. Patrick's Day or St. Joseph's Day. They can make some other sacrifice if
they wish. I visited my parents in Florida a few years ago during Lent and decided to abandon my individual
fasting practices for the week. Can a guest fast while his parents are still with him? Avoid being legalistic like
the Pharisees. Fast from the heart.
- Fasting strengthens our prayer. After His baptism, Jesus went out into the desert to fast and pray before He
started His ministry. When we step back a little from the pleasures of this life, we can focus better on our prayers
and our relationship with God. God is pleased with our sacrifices and more open to hearing our requests. Jesus
told His disciples that their ability to perform healings and to cast out demons would be enhanced through fasting.
Fasting is a key component of praying for the conversion of a loved one.
- Fasting reminds us of those who are hungry and helps focus our almsgiving. We may think it is extreme if we fast
on only bread and water, but it can cause us to stop and reflect on those in the world who do not even have bread
to eat or clean water to drink.
- Fasting takes us out of the world. When we fast we do something that makes no sense to the world. When we are
hungry, and there is food in front of us that we choose not to eat, it reminds us that we are different. We choose to
fast not for health reasons, nor for vanity reasons, but because we believe in God. And this makes no sense to
the secular world which is driven by satisfying pleasures. I miss the days when Catholics were not allowed to eat
meat on any Friday. Not that abstaining from meat was a big sacrifice, but because it set us apart. Each Friday we
made a public acknowledgement that we were Catholic Christians; we admitted that we were different, even if we
were a little like the Pharisees by making our abstinence public.
- Fasting is a sacrifice in reparation for our sins and those of the world. When we sin we add to the pain that Jesus
felt when He was scourged at the pillar. When we willing take sufferings upon ourselves, we can give Jesus some
comfort to partially offset the pain we caused Him. We pick up our cross and follow Jesus and join our sufferings to
His. Our sufferings can be added to the Church’s treasury of merits to help win indulgences and mercy for others.
We can draw from the treasury without paying, and without pay we are called to contribute.
- Fasting strengthens us spiritually. When we conquer our struggles to give up something that we want which may
be good for us, such as food, we strengthen ourselves to give up things that we want but which are bad and sinful.
Fasting can be like a spiritual exercise program. We train ourselves so that we can be in control of our passions;
we condition ourselves not to pursue and obtain everything that gives us pleasure.
- Note: There are times not to fast, and one of those times is on Sunday when we celebrate and give thanks to the
Bridegroom on the Lord's day. Sundays may be days of Lent, but they are not days of fasting. There are still 40
fasting days if we exclude Sundays. (Six weeks time six days per week plus the four days from Ash Wednesday to
the Saturday before the First Sunday in Lent.)
Jesus tells the Pharisees that His disciples will fast after He is no longer with them. He does not deny that fasting is a
good practice when done with the proper disposition and motivation. In the Didache, which was a handbook for early
Christians attributed to the apostles, it is recorded that the people should fast on Wednesdays and Fridays to separate
themselves from the Jews who fasted on Mondays and Thursdays.
|We received a fair bit of snow during the last month; a good chance for some shoveling exercise, and also for sledding
and building snowmen. There have been some beautiful days for taking walks and just enjoying the crisp air and the
beauty of frosty trees; a time to reflect a little more on lessons learned from the retreat I reported on last month. The
theme of that retreat was: “How to be spiritually aware in the midst of practical and distracted living.” It's difficult
to step aside from our practical and distracted lives, but Lent gives us a good opportunity to try. And so, for me, the
retreat topic is a good point of focus.
I have been trying to discern what I should do next, now that efforts on Orthoscopy are winding down. The idea of writing
a second book came to mind many months ago during prayer, but I wasn't sure if it was a real call, so I had been giving it
only half-hearted attention. I tried, instead, to pursue a couple of engineering positions that seemed like ideal fits for me,
but nothing came of them. And so once again I have to ask myself what God wants me to do; what is His will, not what is
my will. Since nothing else has materialized career-wise, I have returned to my daily writing routine to start on the new
book which is tentatively titled: Orthoscopy II: The Rest of the Journey. It's a book about purgatory; hopefully it will
address an audience different than the other 230 books I found on the subject when I did a search on Amazon. I have an
outline and have finished a first draft of the Introduction chapter. (Click on the link if you are curious. I would be
interested in any feedback.)
But I have been struggling to write Chapter One. It is as if I am not ready to write yet; that I need to first step back and try
to spend some time and effort increasing my spiritual awareness and getting my thoughts together. This was on my mind
last Thursday as I attended Mass. Fr. John started out his homily that day using the example of the cartoon character
Snoopy who decided to write the great novel. He put a sheet of paper in his typewriter and wrote: "It was a dark and
stormy night." But then nothing else came because he hadn't prepared for his mission. Father suggested that we need
to ask, seek, and knock, but first we need to know what we are asking for, what we are seeking, and where we want to
enter. It was a very timely homily; God is good that way.
Jenni and I have embarked on one new pursuit that should bring us closer to nature, and maybe one step closer to an
asylum. We are now proud members of SEMBA, the Southeast Michigan Beekeepers Association. We decided to add
beekeeping to our list of hobbies. Last week, we attended our first meeting and met a wonderful, but very diverse, group
of beekeepers. After their initial efforts to convince us that we should run away while we still had a chance, they had pity
on us and gave us all kinds of advice on procuring hives, purchasing bees (yes, you can get them delivered through the
US Mail), and taking beginner's classes. Our biggest decision at this early stage of our venture is what color to paint the
hives. We will have two, his and hers; I was thinking white for mine, but Jenni is thinking a little more exotic.
Follow-up on guardian angels: Last month I mentioned that I had determined that one of my guardian angels was named
Dominic. I have since determined that the other one is named Phillip; but I haven't seen it in writing, so it could be Philip
with only one l. They still haven't shown themselves to me, so I don't know what they look like. It would probably be
presumptuous for me to ask, so I'll just try to work on my spiritual awareness.
|Homilies and Bulletin Articles
|There are four new homilies posted at the website since the last newsletter.
2nd Sunday in Lent
February 28, 2010
1st Sunday in Lent
February 21, 2010
Curses of Distracted Living
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 14, 2010
Go Now, It's a Command
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 7, 2010
|Status of the Book
|I received a proof copy of the book shortly after the last newsletter. It was another step closer to the reality of this
project--everything put together in book form with the completed cover, front, back, and spine. My 2-1/2 year -old
granddaughter can't understand why Papa's picture is on the back of a book. It was good to have the proof copy
because we did find a few mistakes. Some are theirs and some are mine that weren't caught after much editing and
proofreading. There are also a couple of minor preferential changes I am requesting that fall outside of the type of
changes they normally allow at this stage of the process. I am waiting to see how they respond.