This year Ash Wednesday falls on the same day as the eve of Chinese New Year which makes it hard to fast on the same day. I myself choose to fast one another day, given the festivities. The gospel reading speaks about three things to take note of this Lenten season which is fasting, almsgiving and prayer.
Jesus’s message is clear to his disciples and to myself that we should do things in secret and that there is no need for everyone to know that we are doing all the three things. Rather, Jesus prefers to have a close relationship with us by knowing us in our quiet moments and not to let our actions affect our image. We are doing all these three things not out of tradition but as a form of sacrifice to ask Jesus for his forgiveness and to give back to those in need, those whom we tend to ignore or push aside.
Jesus says, “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving maybe secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” But when you pray go to your inner room, close the door , and pray to your father in secret.” When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden, and your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matthew 6:1-18)
Fasting, almsgiving and prayer are considered by the Jews as the main actions of religious life and these three things helped defined the piousness in a person. Many a times, we are seeking for people’s affirmation and praise that we forget that we do not have to please others as Jesus knows all the good works that we are doing. This is one of my areas in life that I have to improve on, which is to not seek glory but greater trust and devotion in Jesus as my actions are enough in his eyes.
Last week on a Sunday, I went to the church of the St Mary of the Angels Chill Out! session with the Friars and my friends from the Catholic Society. The topic that was shared was the notion of True Freedom which everyone was searching. I myself have been searching for freedom for a very long time to feel peace and to have clarity of mind. The only moments when I have encountered this was during adoration, mass and holidays. It showed me the devotion and trust that young St Francis of Assisi had by giving up the life of luxury to live among the poor and nature.
It struck me that I should stop going after what the world wants such as its ideals and requirements but to seek what Jesus wants of me. I find the greatest satisfaction in writing, helping others and caring for animals; I feel a great sense of fulfillment. These are the reasons that I have a strong connection with the friars and with St Francis of Assisi. This is the prayer for Sharing the Franciscan Vision which I would like to share:
“God our Creator, open our eyes
to see your hand at work
in the splendour of creation,
in the beauty of human life.
Touched by your hand
Our word is holy.
Help us to cherish
the gifts that surround us,
to share the spirit of St Francis
with our brothers and sisters
and to experience the joy of life
in your presence. ”
Yes, we are called to share the gift of Jesus to others during this Lenten season and beyond. Despite the tiring week, I am grateful that I still can find time to experience the comfort and affirmation of Jesus. I hope that as I continue to discern my vocation, it becomes clearer to me where I am heading to.
God Bless! as we pray for the courage to not seek fame but devotion to Jesus to fight the temptations and negativity that comes our way.
Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong