by MICHAEL OTTO
The Apostolic Nuncio to New Zealand has cautioned seminarians and theology students not
to treat lenten fasting as a type of sporting competition.
Archbishop Martin Krebs said this in a homily at the 2015 opening Mass at Good Shepherd College in Ponsonby on February 20.
The archbishop said that fasting, like other lenten practices, can be done as a matter of obedience.
It can also be something “enjoyable”, in which people test their capacity to renounce things like good food and alcohol. But if people treat fasting as a “sports competition”, then something is missing, he said.
The archbishop referred to the first reading of the day from Isaiah 58:1-8 as a better way to appreciate fasting.
“For [Isaiah], fasting is a useless exercise when we don’t practise justice and love at the same time. Without love of our neighbours, without justice, we will not obtain anything from God.”
Archbishop Krebs explained that mercy for the poor and underprivileged “puts us in real connection with them and with God”.
“God will then send us a word from above, a ray from his light. That’s why Isaiah says, ‘Cry out and the Lord will answer’.”
Sharing bread with the hungry and sheltering the homeless poor makes your “fasting an act of communication with the needy around you”, Archbishop Krebs said.
He said Pope Francis speaks “permanently in this sense”.
“When you want to come close to God, don’t forget those who need your help, the poor and those who are voiceless.
“In that sense, Pope Francis is a modern prophet, a new Isaiah among us.”
Fasting is also an act of love for Jesus the bridegroom who loves all humanity, Archbishop Krebs
said.“It is breathtaking to see that Jesus compares himself with a bridegroom,” the archbishop said.
“We should meditate again and again on this self description of his work and identity.
“Jesus is in love with mankind like a bridegroom with his bride. He is eternally loved by his Father, who, in him, has sent a ray of light to mankind.
“Sending Jesus, he invites us to celebrate the feast of love with him.”
Archbishop Krebs encouraged the congregation to strive to deepen their connection with Jesus the bridegroom during Lent.
“We try to learn what it means to go with him wherever he goes and to stay at his side, as long as we can.”
At the start of the Mass, Archbishop Krebs noted how God had an interest in every person. But sometimes we feel shame at how much interest God has in us, because “sometimes he has more interest in us than we have in him”.
“So let us begin asking his pardon for our lack of interest.”