Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lent: the reward of dissatisfaction

I thought it might be worth correcting a potential misunderstanding of one of my earlier posts on a Lenten reading of the sermon on the mount in Matthew's Gospel. When I spoke of the reward of fasting being the healing of desire, I did not intend to imply that there is no future aspect to this as though those who perform disciplines of piety privately have also already received their reward in full. The beatitudes that form the heart of the sermon are focused primarily on the future; it is those who are dissatisfied with the present who are blessed, because of God's coming future.

So the reward is both now and not yet. Now the "reward" is a certain kind of dissatisfaction, a yearning desire for right things. This means that at present, fasting and the other disciplines mentioned by Christ are not only uncomfortable and costly, but they make us less happy (in one sense). We fast in order that we begin to hunger for the right things, that is, to hunger and thirst for justice, as the beatitudes put it. The not-yet aspect of the reward is the satisfying of those healed desires. Today's desires look forward to tomorrow's feast, a feast that begins at Easter.