Self-Giving Living

Lent is indeed a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, yet how easy it is to get caught up in these practices externally without thought to the internal preparation. In today’s first reading, Isaiah calls out the people for this:

Lo, on your fast day, you carry out your own pursuits and drive all your laborers. Yes, your fast ends in quarrelling and fighting, striking with wicked claw. – Isaiah 58: 3-4

As unsettling as it may feel, that verse can help us take a deeper look at our Lenten practices. What motivates the penitential practices we choose? To do a really hard thing to see if I am capable? To do what I think I ought to do? Or, to lose weight? To check some boxes?

Perhaps many of us have had the experience of beginning a kind of fast, be it from food, caffeine, or alcohol, only to find ourselves irritable and angry. Or perhaps we fasted from television or social media, and then found ourselves restless and bored. That certainly cannot be the goal. Not even the desire to curb bad habits or develop good ones is the proper disposition of the heart to enter into a holy Lenten fast.

Lenten Fruit

Isaiah offers more instruction:

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. – Isaiah 58: 6-7

What is the difference? The fruit it bears!

When Isaiah reprimanded the people, it was because their penances did not lead to good fruit. Instead, it led to self-righteousness and anger. It only deepened selfishness. Isaiah’s corrective instruction revealed the expressions of self-giving: freeing others of burdens, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and giving of oneself for the good of others.

When Jesus entered the desert for 40 days, he did so to prepare for the greatest sacrificial offering – the full giving of Himself. He laid down His own human will to accomplish the will of the Father. In today’s Gospel, Jesus further explains the point of the fasting – it is for the now – the period of time that we are not with the Bridegroom. It leads us to a realization of the continuing desire and preparation to be with Him, to join our hearts to His in an intimacy beyond our expectations.


Fasting from food and social media can be powerful penitential practices IF they lead us to generous hearts of prayer and loving service. Too often the weeks of Lent fly by, and as we round the corner with Easter in sight, we are somewhat unsure if our Lenten living has been a path that allowed us to imitate our Loving Savior.

Perhaps a good resolution this Lent might be to intentionally make daily or weekly time to consider the fruit of our prayer and penitential practices. How are we lightening the burden of others? And, how are we uniting our sufferings to Christ? How are we denying ourselves for the good of others, especially those in our families?

Let us pray together as a Gratia Vobis community for each other – that our Lenten journeys may be paths that lead to fruitful self-giving.

[Readings: Is 58:1-9a; Mt 9:14-15]

Celina Manville

I have been in education for 20+ years, mostly working in Catholic schools serving children with special needs. Ed and I have been married over 26 years and have 3 (now) adult children - Eddie, Tony, & Kateri. Since my mom was from Brazil, and I speak fluent Portuguese, I can understand Spanish fairly well. Currently, we live in Wake Forest, North Carolina, and are parishioners at St. Luke, the Evangelist Catholic Church in Raleigh. I am most grateful to my parents for grounding me in the faith, to the Franciscan University of Steubenville for its amazing formation and education, and to Christ and His Blessed Mother for being at my side.


  1. SYLVANUS Ifeanyi Amaobi on February 16, 2024 at 9:04 am

    Thank you for this wonderful reflection. God bless you.

    • Celina Manville on February 17, 2024 at 8:09 am

      Thank you, Father.

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