"There are three things, my brethren, by which faith stands firm, devotion,
fasting and mercy. Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains, mercy receives.
Prayer, mercy and fasting: these three are one, and they give life to each
Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one
try to separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or
not all together, you have nothing. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show
mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If
you do not close your ear to others you open God's ear to yourself.
When you fast, see the fasting of others. If you want God to know that you are
hungry, know that another is hungry. If you hope for mercy, show mercy. If you
look for kindness, show kindness. If you want to receive, give. If you ask for
yourself what you deny to others, your asking is a mockery.
Let this be the pattern for all men when they practice mercy: show mercy to
thers in the same way, with the same generosity, with the same promptness, as
you want others to show mercy to you.
Therefore, let prayer, mercy and fasting be one single plea to God on our
behalf, one speech in our defense, a threefold united prayer in our favor.
Let us use fasting to make up for what we have lost by despising others. Let
us offer our souls in sacrifice by means of fasting. There is nothing more
pleasing that we can offer to God, as the psalmist said in prophecy: A
sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; God does not despise a bruised and humbled
Offer your soul to God, make him an oblation of your fasting, so that your soul
may be a pure offering, a holy sacrifice, a living victim, remaining your own
and at the same time made over to God. Whoever fails to give this to God will
not be excused, for if you are to give him yourself you are never without the
means of giving.
To make these acceptable, mercy must be added. Fasting bears no fruit unless it
is watered by mercy. Fasting dries up when mercy dries up. Mercy is to fasting
as rain is to the earth. However much you may cultivate your heart, clear the
soil of your nature, root out vices, sow virtues, if you do not release the
springs of mercy, your fasting will bear no fruit.
When you fast, if your mercy is thin your harvest will be thin; when you fast,
what you pour out in mercy overflows into your barn. Therefore, do not lose by
saving, but gather in by scattering. Give to the poor, and you give to yourself.
You will not be allowed to keep what you have refused to give to others."
Taken from The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume II: Lenten Season - Easter Season,
Third week of Lent, Tuesday, Office of Readings, pp. 231-232. (Sermo 43: PL 52,