Would that today you might Fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Day Three of Lent: Friday after Ash Wednesday – Isaiah 58
Would that today you might Fast so as to make your voice heard on high! –Is. 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.
2 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.
3 “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.
4 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!
5 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
6 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?
7 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?
8 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.
9 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 one of those non-negotiable spiritual practices that either people “get” or they don’t quite understand. Some people fast as a spiritual discipline year-round, especially during Lent, while others fast for more external reasons (i.e to lose weight). Others still simply won’t fast at all. Those who do fast vary in degree. While all fasting is important (to a certain extent), it is worth noting here that if a “fast” is done simply for materialistic reasons like to lose weight it is better off being called a “diet” not a fast.
A real “fast” is spiritually oriented toward the will of God. Said another way, a fast is prayer squared. While some choose to incorporate fasting from daily activities such as social media, television, sports, etc., true biblical fasts abstain from food and drink … and they are only as powerful as the heart motive. In other words, biblical fast’s have one primary goal — to realign the spiritual and physical self back to God by way of mortification, penance and sacrifice.
In today’s reading, Isaiah brings up another powerful point regarding fasting. He points out that when we fast, our physical actions must match our spiritual desires. In other words, if we are fasting yet turn around and treat people badly we might as well forget about any grace or positive effect coming from our sacrifice. If we give up breakfast but then road rage on the way to work or act rude to a co-worker when we get there, what good was the spiritual act of fasting a meal? If we skip a nightly glass of wine but spend the evening gossiping about someone, we might as well not be fasting at all. A real fast is more than abstaining from food or drink. We must seek biblical virtue as well and work at putting those virtues into practice. When we do, when we sharpen Christ-like virtue along with answering the biblical call to abstain from food and drink, our prayer life truly does become prayer-squared and thus blessed!
Day 3 Lenten Meditation
Are you incorporating fasting into your Lenten journey this year? If so, how might you make the practice less about what you are giving up and more about where you are trying to go spiritually? Focus intently on deepening your relationship with God. You can start by clearing some of the noise and clutter that often distracts you from strengthening an interior life of prayer. In combination with your fast, try going without something like social media or watching your favorite TV show in exchange for a strong prayer on your knees. Do something different! Make this year’s Lenten fast count. Oh, and don’t forget about almsgiving. You’ll take that spiritual power to an even higher level!
God of abundance, show us how to find riches in the scarcity of fasting; to push aside the unnecessary and allow You to fill the spiritual void in our lives and in our souls. Heavenly Father, while we fast, please forgive any divisiveness and judgmentalism within us. Give us a spirit of humility that we may always please 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.