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Saturday, March 18, 2000

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St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Deuteronomy 26:16-19
Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8
Matthew 5:43-48

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heartfelt fasting

"Be careful, then, to observe them with all your heart." —Deuteronomy 26:16

We have been fasting during the first ten days of Lent. If we have been carrying out our "own pursuits," our fasting will end "in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw" (Is 58:3-4). However, if we have been fasting in imitation of Jesus, we will even love our enemies and pray for our persecutors (Mt 5:44). Fasting is not only changing our bodies but our hearts. Fasting can backfire on us and make us hard-hearted (see 1 Kgs 21:12), or it can be the way we accept God's grace to be "gentle and humble of heart" (see Mt 11:29). Fasting affects our hearts for better or for worse.

In this year of the Great Jubilee, we must fast for hearts of love by which the poor will be given justice and the enslaved freedom. Isaiah prophesied: "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" (Is 58:6-7). "Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high!" (Is 58:4)

Prayer:  Sacred Heart of Jesus, teach me to pray and fast (see Lk 11:1).

Promise:  "Provided you keep all His commandments, He will then raise you high in praise and renown and glory above all other nations He has made, and you will be a people sacred to the Lord, your God, as He promised." —Dt 26:18-19

Praise:  St. Cyril described Christians as "pressed into the service of a great King."

Nihil Obstat:  Reverend Ralph J. Lawrence, July 28, 1999

Imprimatur:  †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, August 3, 1999