- Document: Holy Scripture Readings
1.1. First Reading: Book of Isaiah 58:1-9
1.2. Gospel Reading: The Gospel of St Matthew 9:14-15
1.3. Simple Comment: The prophet Isaiah emphasizes the type of fasting the Lord is pleased. Similar to what we have heard from the prophet Joel two days ago, Isaiah enlarges the meaning of genuine fasting: to share one’s feasting to those who have been fasting all their life – those bound unjustly, release them just as you enjoy your freedom; those hungry, feed them as you are daily well fed; those homeless, shelter them as you are always secure in your homes; those naked, clothe them as you splurge your money on the latest fashion. The gospel speaks also of the fasting Jesus likes. There is a time for everything he tells John’s disciples as he uses the image of a wedding feast for his explanation – when the bridegroom is present and the feast continues, there is no rightful place for fasting. In fact, our Christian fasting is not because the bridegroom has left us – he is always with us as Risen Lord. Our fasting is Jesus’ way of sharing the suffering of his neighbor in need, much like what Isaiah said: he freed the paralytic, fed the hungry crowd, made the blind see and the lame walk.
- Monument: Ein Karem
2.1. We take ourselves to Zechariah’s residence in Ein Karem, a little town four miles west of Jerusalem. Elizabeth is in her sixth month bearing in her womb the precursor of the Messiah when she hears a familiar voice of a young cousin named Mary. (Ein Karem means Spring of the Vineyard, ein meaning spring and karem meaning vineyard). What sheer joy to find help.
2.2. Mary hastened from Nazareth where about four days earlier she received her own annunciation from the same angel who appeared to Zechariah six months before. The angel told Mary of God’s plan – God is requesting her whether she would accept to be His partner in the birth and growth of His only Son. Mary understood the proposition, but could not muster how this could happen since she does not have relations with a man, and more so, because soon she would be wed to Joseph of Nazareth, her betrothed.
2.3. We know how things were resolved by the angel’s explanation: how the impossible would be possible because the partner is no other than God. All God asks of Mary is to trust His ways; and indeed, she entrusts herself completely to Him stating she is His servant. God takes her total dedication and makes her His virgin Bride, a prefiguration of the Church, the Bride of Christ, the start of a totally new era for human history called the New Testament, the New Covenant, the New Partnership between God and humanity!
- Lenten Reflection
3.1. Are we in a season of fast or are we actually in the feast of a wedding banquet? Yes and No! Both-And! We know and believe Christ is risen and we daily feast in the banquet of his Eucharist. But also we claim that He will come again, and in that while of his final coming, we fast because we are His partners in establishing the new covenant among those we’ve been sent: family, neighborhood, parish, office and nation. In these contexts we find the bound, the oppressed, the hungry, the naked, the old Elizabeths who need help for their laundry, their cooking, their house work, their difficult pregnancy.
3.2. The challenge is to be Marys, servants of God. In the midst of our blessing for already sharing the joys of the Risen Jesus, God counts on us to be a blessing for others who still need to recognize that they too are beloved by God.
- Contemporary Filipino Question: Pakikiramay describes much of our Filipino ways of relating, not only with our kapwa but also with God. Our Lenten practices show we are kadamay of Jesus: pasyon, pabasa, flagellantes, and Hesus Nazareno of Quiapo. But in this period of our nation’s history, is this really the call to partnership Jesus desires?