Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday after Ash Wednesday: Encountering God in the Poor, of the Poor

This is the fasting that I wish: sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them.” - Is 58:6-7

Fasting is commonly understood as a means of personal health or holiness: a way of expiating sin, of purifying one’s spirit or body, of offering something up to God. Yet, fasting is also deeply communal. It is integrally related to the almsgiving of the Gospel – the practice of compassion and justice. Does our Lenten commitment involve a greater reaching out to our sisters and brothers who are marginalized and forgotten? Do we adopt a simpler lifestyle, or sharing of time and resources that raise awareness concerning the plight of those less privileged in society, or deepen solidarity with the poor?

In a homily on today’s readings, Pope Francis asks, “Am I ashamed of the flesh of my brother? When I give alms, do I let the coins fall without touching his hand? Do I look at my brother or sister in the eyes?” He often says that fasting without concern for our brothers and sisters in need is self-serving and keeps us closed to the grace of God.

God in Jesus whom we seek to know, love, and serve was born poor, lived a poor life, identified with the poor, and died poor. We meet God when we encounter and care for those who are poor. Our love for God is proportional to our compassion to the least among us. This is not an easy message for me. It stretches my comfortable idea of God and how to consistently encounter the divine. In this Jubilee, perhaps practicing corporal works of mercy is a concrete response for you and me?

O Lord, help us reach out and encounter you in those whom society rejects, abandons, or despises

(The above photo is Fritz Eichenberg's many art donations to the pages of The Catholic Worker)

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