Commentary on the Gospel of
In the weeks leading up to Lent and in these early days of the season we often hear the question: What are you giving up for Lent? The 40 days of Lent offer an opportunity to explore how we have turned away from God. Through prayer, fasting and almsgiving we can abandon the distractions in our lives that prevent us from serving God.
Many times people use fasting during Lent as an opportunity for a self-improvement program thinking perhaps they may take off a few extra pounds while giving up chocolate during Lent. You will find no judgment from me on this topic as I have many times gone down this path. When we were young my brother had a unique twist on fasting by saying things like “I’m going to give up eating my vegetables” or “I’m going to give up being nice to my sisters.” He achieved his goal of getting a strong reaction from his sisters, but these were probably not his most prayerful moments.
The first reading today from Isaiah challenges us to look at our practices of fasting. We are reminded that we cannot simply go through the motions and expect to become closer to God. How many times have I been true to my fast of avoiding meat, eating simple meals and abstaining from something that is difficult to give up and yet kept the focus on me. We read: 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.
But rather than feeling shame and desolation about my imperfect fasting, I become inspired by God’s wisdom in redefining a fast. God asks us to use our fast to set free the oppressed, share bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked and not turn our backs on any of God’s children. Reading these words in Isaiah inspires me with possibilities of how I can serve God.
Offering gentle care for God’s children who may be struggling will help me reorder my life to God. I feel a bit overwhelmed about where best to start. Through prayer I realize that God is not asking me to do it all, nor is God asking me to fast perfectly. But God is asking me to step out of my “comfort zone, leave the distractions of my life and turn toward all of God’s children. What a wonderful Lenten journey!
A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.