Providing the Word of God.

March 3, 2017


THE TRUE SPIRIT OF FASTING

Reading 1 – IS 58:1-9A

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!

Responsorial Psalm – PS 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 18-19

R. (19B) A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.”
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

Alleluia – see AM 5:14

Seek good and no
t evil so that you may live,
and the Lord will be with you.

Gospel – MT 9:14-15

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
“Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast.”

Reflection

One year, I decided to fast from coffee for Lent. Big mistake. My co-workers and most people who courageously still kept my company begged me to choose something else which I eventually did. It wasn’t that I was a little cranky without my first cup of java in the morning, I was kind of miserable. Clearly, I was not spiritually mature enough to fully grasp the full depth of the meaning of why we fast and the true effects it is meant to have during this Holy Season.

You could safely say that was an “unacceptable” fast unto the Lord. It just didn’t measure up to the increase of holiness and closeness to the Lord not just for me but all around me.

What is, then, an “acceptable” fast? The Prophet Isaiah spells it out:

“This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly, (FORGIVENESS)
untying the thongs of the yoke; (LETTING GO OF GRUDGES)
Setting free the oppressed, (STOP JUDGING)
breaking every yoke; (PRACTICE PATIENCE)
Sharing your bread with the hungry, (SLOW DOWN & BE GRATEFUL)
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; (BE GENEROUS)
Clothing the naked when you see them, (FIGHT SELFISHNESS)
and not turning your back on your own.” (SPEND QUALITY TIME WITH LOVED ONES)

We bring Jesus to life when we practice virtue; the longer we practice, the more it becomes part of our character and personality and it doesn’t even feel like a burden. That’s our goal:  O God, make me like Jesus!

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