Pope's Morning Homily: Lenten Fast Must Be Real and Not Formal
Says Fasting Must Come From the Heart During Mass at Casa Santa Marta
To fast during Lent is not just an external observance, "rather it is a fast that comes from the heart." This was the reflection offered by Pope Francis during his morning homily at Casa Santa Marta.
According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father began by speaking on today's first reading, in which the prophet Isaiah, conveying a message from God, questions the manner of fasting.
"Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bows his head like a reed and lie in sackcloth and ashes?" the prophet asks.
"This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every 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."
Reflecting on these words, the Pope stressed the need to distinguish between a "formal and a real" fast. For this reason, he explained, "Jesus condemned the Pharisees for making so many exterior observances, but without the truth of the heart."
The true fasting mentioned in the first reading, he continued, is what truly "comes from the heart" that fulfills the commandment of love towards God and neighbor.
"They are united: the love of God and the love of neighbor are united and if you want to do penance, real and not formal, you must do it in front of God and also with your brother, your neighbor," he said.
The Pope also stressed the importance of living this true fast in one's daily life, especially with employees and family members.
"How many, how many men and women of faith, have faith yet divide the tablets of the law: 'Yes, yes I do this' – "But do you give alms?' – Yes, yes, I always send a check to the Church' – Ah, well, that's good," he said.
"But to the Church, your home, with those who depend on you – be it children, grandparents, those who are dependents – are you generous, are you just?' You cannot make an offering to the Church on the shoulders of the injustice that you do to your dependents. This is a grave sin: it is using God to cover injustice."
The 78 year old Pontiff went on to say that the Lenten season encompasses this love for both God and neighbor and not just the physical act of fasting. "It isn't only about not eating meat on Fridays, to do some little thing and then make selfishness grow, the exploitation of others, and the ignorance of the poor," he said.
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis reminded the faithful that lent is a time to think about others, especially those who are forgotten. "In this Lent," he asked, "is there a place in your heart for those who have not fulfilled the commandments? Who made a mistake and are in prison."
"Do those imprisoned have a place [in your heart]?" he continued. "Do you pray for them, so that the Lord help them to change their life?' Accompany, Lord, on our Lenten path so that the exterior observance corresponds to a profound renewal in Spirit."