Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday. My parish offered confessions in the afternoon. So many parishioners took advantage of the opportunity to be shriven; that is, absolved of their sins, as a preparation for Lent. I was one of them.
Now Lent has begun.
This morning I prayed Liturgy of the Hours, as usual. One reading was from the 58th chapter of the prophet Isaiah. The prophet made it clear what kind of fasting is acceptable to the LORD:
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: Releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking the 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.
It is clear that what pleases God during this penitential season is mercy. Another reading from Saint Clement, one of our earliest popes, also emphasizes the relationship of repentance to mercy.
Recall especially what the LORD Jesus said when he taught gentleness and forbearance. Be merciful, he said, so that you may have mercy shown to you. Forgive, so that you may be forgiven. As you treat others, so will you be treated. As you give, so you will receive. As you judge, so you will be judged. As you are kind to others, so you will be treated kindly. The measure of your giving will be the measure of your receiving.
During confession yesterday I asked the priest if he had any suggestions for a Lenten practice. His suggestion was not to complain for a week. This is day one of seven days, and I have found this a challenge. I didn’t realize how often I’m tempted to complain. I’m sure that refraining from complaining will be an act of mercy towards those who have to hear my complaining.
God bless you on your Lenten journey. Let us pray for one another.