Living in conversion means embracing our circumstances as an opportunity of imitating Christ who gives himself out of love for humanity. This year the Pope in his Lenten message speaks, among other things, of fasting as an expression of our conversion.
Fasting invites us to identify with Christ in his poverty. It is being hungry for what God wants to give us generously.
Jesus, who announced the Kingdom through banquet parables and expressed it in different meals such as the wedding at Cana or the banquet at Levi’s house, went hungry in the desert. He who proclaimed that the worker has the right to his salary was the Son of man who had nowhere to lay his head. Jesus who joyfully expressed that God reveals himself to the simple, felt the lack of human support. He is tempted in Gethsemane and feels on the way to Jerusalem that his friends are not in tune with him and that many will stop following him.
We are in need, but at the same time, we believe that God himself is a gift to us and he knows what we need so well. These two realities exist together in our journey of faith. Sometimes we experience our own need or lack of something without warning. Other times, we choose to give up large or small things to remind ourselves that we are creatures and that everything we have we receive from God. We thus choose to make ourselves free from ourselves and awake to what God needs in our brothers and sisters.
We become configured to Jesus when, like Him, not having everything we want, makes our hearts expand. The depth with which Jesus discovered his sense of mission was forged in those moments. The Pope said on Ash Wednesday: “Today we bow our heads to receive the ashes. When Lent is over, we will lower ourselves even more to wash the feet of our brothers and sisters”.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, after his baptism, bows his head and recognizes himself as poor in the desert: he lacks bread and he has to fight against the voice of the tempter. On Holy Thursday his heart has expanded to such a degree that he ends up at the feet of the disciples ready to give his life for them despite the fact that they did not understand what was going to happen and offers himself without limits to the Father for all.
We fast to open our hearts to the abundance of God. It helps us to avoid pigeonholing ourselves in what we know and can do. It`s a way of not holding onto what we do and have if that makes our tastes or our voice prevail over love and what God wants. It helps us not to feel secure in what we know or we’ve done up until now either in the apostolate or in our relationships. And above all we fast because we want to live secure in God.Our ability to live at the feet of our brothers and sisters will come from him, loving them with his love.
Jesus says that his disciples do not fast because the bridegroom is with them. But when the groom is taken away they will fast. We believe in the Kingdom, that Jesus has married all humanity to Him with the seal of the cross. We believe that nothing and no one can take the love of God away from us manifested in Christ.
This certainty exists alongside our personal limits to make the Gospel more accessible to the person of today, and with a historical moment that cries out for a profound change. Jesus, looking at our lives says confidently: “My disciples will fast. They will not look out for themselves nor look the other way absentmindedly so as not to see suffering. They will not fear the feeling of poverty, or the gulf between what is needed and what they can offer with their own lives. I know they will not look for other compensations, other distractions, other solutions. For they will be guided by my voice even if they feel hungry for immediate solutions, or to appear significant to our world. My disciples will fast and come out rich and generous, they will be more than satisfied. What they offer will overflow”.
M. Carmen Izquierdo