"Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God." Jl 2:12
The prophet Joel is so clear. Fasting and mourning are to rend our hearts, to help us turn to God again. They have no value in themselves. Only when fasting, prayer, and almsgiving remind us of God's unconditional love, do they become spiritual practices that challenge us to change and renew our faith.
Sometimes there is no need to fast or give alms. When our lives fall apart, when families struggle relationally, or soul friends suffer with a terminal illness, our penance is clear. We must sit quietly and accompany those in need with an open spirit and a compassionate heart. This is never easy, but always necessary, and fulfills the command of Jesus to visit the imprisoned, feed the hungry and welcome the stranger.
Today, do a simple penance. Visit a lonely neighbor.
What will help you move towards Easter with joy?