In the olden times fasting, wearing sackcloth, smearing ashes on the head and other forms of sacrifices were regarded as contrite acts, with the purpose of gaining mercy and compassion from the Lord. Sacrifice was directed to self-sanctification to merit indulgence, self-discipline and as an act of penance.

I was strongly drawn by the first reading of the Mass on Friday after Ash Wednesday which specifically asserted the type of fasting that is pleasing and acceptable in the eyes of the Lord:

6offering-plate “The kind of fasting I want is this: Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. 7 Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives. (Isaiah 58:6-7 GNT)

Having been newly anointed as the ME Regional ANCOP Coordinator on same day I was meditating on this passage, it came as an honor and affirmation to my thoughts of choosing to abstain from things like: going to the cinema as my Lenten sacrifice. Like the olden times, I considered it a good sacrifice as it will save money at the same time fulfill my religious obligation. Yet, this passage offers an even deeper meaning of sacrifice and a greater sense of connectivity to the Lord. If I go to see a movie once a week, four movie tickets a month would be a good contribution to the work for the poor. It will be a good idea to add the amount to my monthly “padugo” envelop as the fruit of my Lenten sacrifice.

Moreover, Pope Francis admonished us during the Mass on Ash Wednesday by saying, “Fasting makes sense if it really chips away at our security and as a consequence, benefits someone else, if it helps us cultivate the style of the good Samaritan, who bent down to his brother in need and took care of him”.

In our spiritual growth, we go through a lifetime process of holiness. We are slowly enriched by the Holy Scripture, Holy Eucharist, the sacraments, prayers, spiritual readings and conferences. All these transform us and help us attain generous hearts that enable us to Answer the Cry of the Poor. At the time of reckoning, we will face Jesus the Judge who will open the gates of heaven based on how much we have reached out to help the needy. (Matt 25:31-46). Our call to preach the Gospel and make disciples is all about becoming Alter Christus to do His mission to the Poor. A disciple or an apostle is he who pours himself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted.

Our Lenten sacrifice should therefore be directed towards others rather than to ourselves; making it a life-giving act, no matter how simple or little material contribution we can share for the welfare of the less privileged. There are many opportunities, wherever we are for making sacrifices. Here in the Middle East, we may have less of those who are materially poor but definitely, we are surrounded by many whom we can consider as spiritually destitute. They are those who are lonely, those who lost loved ones, those persecuted by employers, those victimized by labor injustice, those carrying emotional baggage or guilt feelings and many others. A ready smile, a listening ear, a welcoming greeting, opening the door for someone and many similar loving acts will truly give life to people around us in CFC as well as in the larger parish and corporate community.

Let us make ANCOP our Lenten Sacrifice offering our treasure, talent and time to our disadvantaged brethren that they may experience love of God.

Bads Ellica
ME ANCOP Regional Coordinator

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