When fasting is worthless: Spend 5 with Jesus: February 24, 2023
When fasting is worthless
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?
What did you give up for Lent? I am sure you have been asked this question more than once this week. It seems like everyone wants to know. And too often, at least for me, the answer is that I decided to sacrifice some small thing. Did it change my life? Did I act differently after this small sacrifice?
Put simply, did the fasting I undertook really change my life? Was the fasting I engaged in really a difference-maker for me during Lent? (Or any other time?) Even worse, did I continue sinful ways at the same time I was fasting, making a mockery of my external witness?
The first reading today makes it clear that the real fasting God desires is pretty significant. “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.“
So what becomes clear because of this first reading is that if our external actions do not lead to more effective witness to the ways in which our hearts and actions are changing, or worse yet, do not indicate we are even trying to avoid sin, then it is at best a type of worthless fasting, and at worst a scandalous witness that could lead to our being unable to accept God’s forgiveness or salvation.
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