Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just
and not abandoned the law of their God;
They ask me to declare what is due them,
pleased to gain access to God.
“Why do we fast, and you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”
Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.
Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
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.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and 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!
Why do we fast? Do we just fast because it is what we are supposed to do during Lent?
Yesterday I was talking with someone and she was concerned about her husband’s fast because it makes him miserable. He is short on patience and grumpy when he fasts from certain things during Lent.
Sometimes that happens with us as well, right? We fast from chocolate or sweets or alcohol and it makes us miserable. Fasting is meant to lead us closer to God and to be more loving; it is not meant to make us miserable.
This is what Isaiah is referring to in today’s reading. Some people were fasting and then they would make life miserable for others. This is not the fasting God had in mind. What He is looking for is that we love our neighbor and sacrifice our own needs to help others – clothe the naked, housing the homeless, giving food to the hungry….
So let’s make a review of our plans for Lent.
From what am I choosing to fast?
Why did I choose this fast?
Is my fast leading me to loving God and my neighbor?
If not, take time early in Lent to change the plan. Whatever you choose to do should be directed at becoming a better person. It is not a competition to see who can give up the most. It is meant for growing in holiness.
Have a blessed day!