Would that today you might Fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Day Three of Lent: Friday after Ash Wednesday Prayer and Meditation – Isaiah 58
Would that today you might Fast so as to make your voice heard on high! -Isaiah 58:4
Today’s Reading: Isaiah 58:1-9
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Proclaim to my people their transgression,
to 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 judgment of their God;
They ask of me just judgments,
they desire to draw near to God.
“Why do we fast, but you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, but you take no note?”
See, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
See, you fast only to quarrel and fight
and to strike with a wicked fist!
Do not fast as you do today
to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I would choose,
a day to afflict oneself?
To bow one’s head like a reed,
and lie upon sackcloth and ashes?
Is this what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
Authentic Fasting That Leads to Blessing
Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking off every yoke?
Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry,
bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own flesh?
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!”
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the accusing finger, and malicious speech…
Today’s Lenten Reflection
Fasting is a non-negotiable spiritual discipline that one understands through proper biblical catechesis. The most important aspect to understand from the jump is that fasting is mandatory in the life of a Christian. Welcome to Lent!
Some people choose to fast as a spiritual discipline year-round and that’s great. But fasting is especially exercised during this time of Lent. It should be noted that fasting for external reasons, i.e to lose weight, is not fasting. That’s called dieting. True fasting is a spiritual discipline, a way by which the soul draws nearer to God through obedience and sacrifice. There is no vanity attached to this discipline whatsoever.
One could also look at fasting as a method by which prayer becomes squared. While fasting, our prayers become strengthened in power because of the sacrifice attached them. Moreover, there are many different ways to fast. While some choose to fast from daily activities such as social media, television, certain hobbies etc., true biblical fasts include abstaining from certain foods and drink. While the fast itself is of most importance, it will only be as powerful as the heart’s motivation. In other words, biblical fasts have a primary goal. They serve as a conduit to draw a person near to God through the spiritual act of mortification, penance, and sacrifice.
In today’s reading, Isaiah brings up a powerful point regarding fasting. He points out that when a person fasts, his physical actions must match the spiritual desires. For example, if a person were to treat someone unfairly or unjustly while fasting the negative action(s) cancel out the grace normally given. In another example, if one were to give up breakfast in a fast but then road rage on the way to work or gossip about a co-worker, the good from the fast would be negated by the negative actions committed.
It is clear that fasting is not merely abstaining from food or drink. While that is the primary action of a fast, our disposition and heart motive must be aligned with Christ’s. So as you move forward with your Lenten fast this year, pray for Christ-like dispositions in addition to the strength and fortitude to abstain from meals. In doing so, your prayer life will truly take on another level of strength and power; it will become “prayer-squared” as they say, and you will grow in holiness and become blessed.
Day 3 Lenten Activity
Are you incorporating the Church’s fasting requirements into your Lenten journey this year? If so, how might you focus more intently on what you are trying to achieve spiritually? What is your end goal with God? If you are trying to enhance your prayer life, a good way to start is by clearing some of the noise and clutter from your life that serves as distractions. Try going without social media or Netflix for a week or more in exchange for an extra hour (or two!) of prayer. Do this in combination with fasting from certain foods and drink of course. It’s about doing something different during Lent to build new habits for God. Make this year’s Lenten fast count! And don’t forget about almsgiving either. You’ll take that spiritual power to an even higher level.
God of abundance, show us how to find heavenly riches in the scarcity of fasting. Help us to push aside the unnecessary distractions in our lives and allow You to fill the spiritual void in our daily routines and in our souls. And while we fast, Father, please forgive any divisiveness and judgmentalism within us. Give us a spirit of humility that we may always please You, our divine Bridegroom. It is in Your good and holy Name we pray, Amen.
Today’s suggested Penance
Skip a meal and offer it to God for the penance of souls. Pray for the conversion of the lost.
“You must accept your cross; if you bear it courageously, it will carry you [all the way] to Heaven” –Saint John Vianney.