My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
“Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast.”
During this Lenten season, we talk a lot about we’re doing or giving up for these forty days. But let us not forget that the whole point of all these external activities and devotions is to form the interior disposition of our hearts. What God wants more than anything is to be close to us. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus identifies Himself as the Bridegroom. Jesus desires union with us, to know us intimately, to cultivate relationship with us.
All our Lenten fervor should not be about mere self-improvement or testing our own strength. Rather, it should facilitate our union with Christ, perhaps making us even more aware of our weakness as we learn to depend upon Him. As we fast while waiting upon our Bridegroom, we leave space for the feast that is to come and open up room in our hearts for Jesus to enter.
If we go beyond the surface level of our Lenten devotions and allow them to truly form our hearts, it will affect how we act toward one another. When we create space in our daily routines and welcome the emptiness that Lent brings, we can begin to hear Jesus’s voice more clearly in the silence. And if we listen, we will hear His overwhelming love for us ringing out even in the desert. When we know we are loved beyond measure, our own capacity to love will deepen.
This type of fasting, which brings us closer to the Heart of God, is what will lead us to the promises described in the first reading from Isaiah:
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed.
He is the Light in the darkness of Lent; He is the One who heals all our wounds. And He invites us to use these forty days to draw close to His Sacred Heart.
Image: Jean Colombe, “The Penance of David, Psalm 51,” from Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry / PD-US