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Fast day? I’ll have the rocky road, please!

In 1990, I went on a pilgrimage* as a means of thanksgiving for something that had happened. One day, I was part of a small group attempting to climb a path strewn with rocks, on a very, very hot day.

Someone decided, quite sincerely as I recall, that they should go up on their knees, an idea that lasted about sixty seconds. Others were known for doing it, so this person thought it was possible desirable even. I must admit, I agreed, but I was not going to try it.

A discussion of this practice began as we stopped to rest; it was a very hot day as I recall. Our guide, who had led people up and down this path many times, very gently asked why any of us thought we should do this. A few answers sprung up, most of them saying that we thought that God wanted us to make sacrifices. She shook her head, I recall thinking that her large blue eyes looked like seas of compassion, and she said that maybe we shouldn’t always be deciding what God wants. She went on to say that what if God wanted us to go home and forgive the person we had the greatest grudge against, rather than climb rocks on our knees?

Our small group fell silent. Who wanted to do that?

Can’t we climb rocks on our knees, please? I’ll have the rocky road, please!

Today’s first reading delivered me back to that rocky path in an instant, as I read these words from Isaiah 58:

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.

What if setting free the oppressed began with examining our own broken hearts, that are tough with scar tissue? Mind you, I have little clue as to how to do this, but that is what came to mind when I read the passage.

Perhaps that is where the yokes are first broken, setting ourselves free. Only then might we share our bread, shelter others, clothe the naked, and not turn our backs on our own.

Charity can be practiced without ever having a change of heart. Maybe a proper fast for this first Friday of Lent might be to “give up” pride, anger, hurt – or to at least, try to do so.

Can’t we climb rocks on our knees, please? I’ll have the rocky road, please!

How can we face the most oppressed and impoverished among us, if we can’t face the oppressed and impoverished within? This would appear to be why we God asked us on Ash Wednesday, via the prophet Joel, to rend our heats, and not our garments, which is the hardest work of all.

This work can’t be done without God and without one another. Are you with me? Let it begin.

*I went to Medjugorje. I was not a practicing Catholic at the time, not even close. And while I don’t want to get into stereotypes, let’s just say that some may find it surprising that I went there. Anyway, that is another story for another day. If you want to read about that post, you can look at this post. Let it suffice to say that it was a journey that changed my life completely!

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One Response

  1. I very much like your reflection today, Fran. It will definitely help me on my Lenten journey. Thank you. A really great post. So often, I too would rather have the rocky road…

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