Reflection for March 7, 2003: Friday after Ash Wednesday.
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Today the Church commemorates the life and death of two martyrs, Perpetua and Felicity, who were persecuted in Carthage in 203. The Roman emperor in Carthage had issued an edict that no one was to become a Christian. Vibia Perpetua, who was 22 years old, and her slave, Felicity, became catechumens. Later, they were discovered and imprisoned. Perpetua and Felicity sang songs and prayed to God even in their darkest hour. It is reported that they withstood torture with radiance and high spirits. They even gave each other the sign of peace standing before the executioner. Perpetua and Felicity handed over their lives because of their desires to live fully as Christians.||Today they remind us to hand over our lives for Christ as they did. Fasting is one way that we can hand over our wills and desires to strengthen our spiritual lives and glorify God. Both of today's readings speak about fasting as a spiritual practice, which was widely done among peoples as reported in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Today's readings put a twist on the spiritual practice of fasting. Instead of saying all fasting is good, the readings put fasting into perspective for Christians.|In the gospel reading, Jesus states that there is a proper time for fasting. And that time would not come for the disciples while Jesus was present. The author of the first reading from Isaiah also put conditions on fasting. The scripture states, "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." This reading sounds more like a fasting of our wills, so that we are not focused on ourselves, but rather setting free, caring for and serving the needs of others.|And so we find ourselves in the first Friday of Lent. Yes, Catholics are required to abstain from eating meat. Besides giving up meat today, have you been asked, "What are you giving up for Lent?" Are you doing the typical "give up chocolate, alcohol, or TV watching" for your Lenten fast? Both the commemoration of today's martyrs and readings suggest that we may want to hand over our lives to Christ in different ways. Perhaps we can fast in new ways this Lent that will have a dramatic change on how we experience Christ and those around us. Perhaps we can fast from those things in our lives that keep us from fully living as and being Jesus to others. We can set free those whom we have not forgiven, show love to those we take for granted, and serve those we see in need. We should also quiet ourselves this Lent and listen to God speaking to us in the whispers of our lives and hearts. God knows what kind of fast we most need this Lent, and listening to God, will make that clear. So let us be inspired by the lives of Perpetua and Felicity this Lent and hand over our lives to Christ with radiance and high spirits. Let us put on the mind and heart of Christ so that we can be free to love and serve others as Jesus did.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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