On the top of Mount Sinai, Moses fasted for forty days, hearing the Word of God, the law of the Lord proclaimed for his people.
Elijah walked across the desert for forty days, fasting the entire time, to hear the Word of the Lord, spoken in a small, still whisper.
The Word of God himself, Jesus Christ, fasted in the wilderness for forty days, resisting the temptations of Satan and preparing for his sacred ministry.
The Lord often calls his disciples and servants to periods of fasting, in which he reveals himself to them, and to the world, in a new way. When we fast from the distractions of this world, and when we fast even from the demands of our own appetites, we can hear the voice of God more clearly and directly.
Lent is a period of time in the liturgical year when the whole Church is called to fast and do penance in order to hear the voice of God more clearly and directly. We fast from food, especially on particular days of penance, and we fast from distractions, and appetites, and preferences that often distract us from seeking the voice of God, and from hearing it. In Lent, we are called to fast from the things that dull our spiritual senses, which leave us feeling satisfied—because in Lent, we are reminded to hunger for the Word of God.
Pope Francis says that we should also, during Lent, “fast from our indifference.” We should fast from our indifference to the needs of the poor, the marginalized, and the lost. The Holy Father says that we hear the voice of God, and see the face of Christ, in the voices and faces of the poor. We should, he says, fast from our indifference to those on the periphery, because “whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.”
We fast from our indifference by committing to extending mercy to those most in need of God’s love. And this Lent, during the Church’s Year of Mercy, each one of us should “fast from indifference” by committing to practicing the Church’s works of mercy.
This Lent, I ask every Catholic household, family, religious sister, and priest to commit to extending God’s love through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
The corporal works of mercy are feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, giving alms to the poor, and burying the dead.
The spiritual works of mercy are admonishing sinners, instructing the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comforting the sorrowful, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving injuries, and praying for the living and the dead.
I hope that as this Lent begins, every Catholic in the Diocese of Lincoln will prayerfully reflect on the works of mercy, and choose a spiritual work of mercy, and a corporal work of mercy, to practice during the period of Lent. This will take different forms in each family or household. But I hope that this Lent will be a time in which all of us offer the mercy of God to the spiritually and materially poor.
As we enter into fasting this Lent, we will hear the voice of the Father, as did Moses, Elijah, and Jesus Christ in their own fasting. And as we “fast from our indifference,” may we reveal the love of God, and hear the voice of the Lord, spoken by Christ through merciful encounters with the poor.