The Season of Lent-Part 2
In the New Testament, Luke mentions the prophet Anna who never left the temple but served the Lord with fasting and prayer night and day [Luke 2:36]. The Pharisees made a big deal of fasting and considered it merited work, but let us not forget that Jesus denounced the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. It became the custom of the pious to fast on Mondays and Thursdays, and most of the letters from the Apostle Paul did not require the Gentiles to fast, and in the few cases where fasting was mentioned, Paul was not clear as to why fasting was recommended. Was it because there was a food shortage or was it a voluntary act of piety?
In the Jewish tradition fasting was common in times of national emergency. Kings and spiritual leaders proclaimed special fast days to seek help from the Lord. King Jehosphat summoned all Judah to fast when the invasion of the Dead Sea was imminent. Joel ordered the priest to fast after the disasters of the drought, locust and plagues. Ezra proclaimed a fast to pray for safe journey to Jerusalem and Queen Esther begged Mordecai and the Jews to fast with her three days and three nights before she approached King Ahasuerus. It is important for us to keep in mind that religious acts are for our benefit, not because it is required by God.
Self-denial and voluntary abstinence is most effective when it is used as a means to draw the attention of those in power to address the plight, oppression and injustice of others. Fasting is not an act to secure salvation or some eternal reward. Fasting is a religious act and spiritual act. It is a way to cleanse the mind and body of impurities and to refocus on the things that matter and to propel us to take actions that transform the lives of individuals and societies.
During the season of Lent, let us be mindful of what we choose to do and why we do it as we establish the meaning and outcomes of fasting. Remember, those meanings and outcomes go beyond ourselves.
At this time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. The moment he came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God’s Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice: “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.”
God’s Kingdom Is Here
At once, this same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him.
After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee preaching the Message of God: “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.”
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