On Lenten Fasting

Today is Ash Wednesday:  in the Christian world, the beginning of Lent, the 40-day period of reflection and performance of penance for one’s sins in preparation for Jesus’ Passion and Death on Good Friday and Resurrection on Easter Sunday.  It is a time in which Christians have traditionally fasted – customarily understood to mean that one of faith will willingly bear the pang of hunger, or endure some other discomfort – so as to identify in a microscopic way with the Lord’s suffering.  Even so, I offer the following Scriptural description of another means of fasting by which one might embrace the spirit of Lent:

“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.’”

 Isaiah 58:  4-9    

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