The Fast that I Choose
Lent is coming fast! As I write this, we are less than three weeks from Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. My only clear childhood memory of Lent was deciding what we were going to “give up.” Mostly, it was candy, or ice cream, or some other treat. But, of course, we all knew about the rule that you could have it on Sunday, so I’m guessing the overall consumption didn’t actually go down very much.
Of course, there can be great benefit to such Lenten disciplines, beyond a slight reduction in the waistline. The simple act of denying oneself for the sake of devotion is a worthy exercise. But this Sunday’s lesson from the prophet Isaiah gives us a much fuller understanding of what a fast is.
“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 (click here for full passage)
A fast that simply denies oneself something, but does nothing to express love and compassion is less than a fast. God does not call us to lives of self-denial for its own sake, but to lives of loving service to others. As you look ahead to Lent, think not just about self-denial, but about how you might use this time for love and service. What might your new discipline be?
This column appeared in the February 9, 2020 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current eNews.