The Fast God Chooses

Our First Lesson today from the Prophet Isaiah is the wonderful “alternative reading” for Ash Wednesday! The traditional one is from Joel and talks about “blowing the trumpet” and “proclaiming a solemn fast” and about “priests, weeping between the vestibule and altar” because of the sins of their people.

This reading tells us what kind of fast actually is pleasing to God! “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)

But what has that to do with fasting, you may ask? What has that to do with Lent? Sounds like some of that “social justice” agenda the Presiding Bishop is always talking about! No, it’s the kind of “social justice” agenda God is always talking about! And, God’s people – from Moses to Isaiah to Jesus to the Church — and to this very Lenten season.

You see, fasting is related to “abstinence.” It is about “giving something up” for God. Because God is more important to you than “stuff.” And, believe me, my dear friends: 

If you loose the bonds of injustice, you’re going to have to give something up!

If you let the oppressed go free, you’re going to have to give something up!

If you share your bread with the hungry, you’re going to have to give something up!

If you bring the homeless poor into your house, you’ll have to give something up!

If you see the naked and cover them, you’ll have to give something up!

If you stop hiding from your own kin, you’ll have to give something up!

And that…is fasting!

But, if you’ll do those things, if you’ll engage in that kind of fast, Isaiah assures you that, “…your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.  Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, “Here I am.” (Isaiah 58:8-9)

Yes, God will say, “Here I am” because you will have learned the truth of what Jesus said in today’s Gospel, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (Matthew 10:13).

You will have learned what it means to put new wine into new wineskins.

And God will be pleased!

         

    

2 Responses to “The Fast God Chooses”

  1. JB Says:

    Simply beautiful. Great reflection!

    Peace,
    JB

  2. DHFabian Says:

    If you give up sweets for Lent, that’s all you’ve done—given up sweets for Lent. It doesn’t mean a whole lot. What does mean a lot is to give up your prejudices and arrogance enough to recognize the injustice/suffering experienced by those all around us, specifically the poor. That can be difficult, if you’ve never experienced poverty. When you can give up your focus on self, and begin to see the sufferings of others, and THEN turn this into actions (on the basis of whatever you are able to do, if only to relentlessly urge our legislators to stop giving billions of dollars in “tax relief” to the rich, and start restoring aid for our poor), then you are truly rewarded.

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