As a child, and even as a young adult, I recall so much emphasis on giving things up, and fasting during Lent. I gave up candy and sweets, which was a sacrifice since I have always had a sweet tooth. I also understood it as a time for praying more and saving some of my allowance to put in a little box to be sent off for poor children in faraway places. When I became a young adult, I started fasting and remember trying to be careful that my two smaller meals did not equal my main meal for the day. There seemed to be so much emphasis on following the rules; I was much like the Jewish people in the reading from Isaiah.
In the reading, God chastises his people for making such a display of their fasting while at the same time mistreating their employees and fighting amongst themselves. He wants them to make their fast a time to forgive others, feed the hungry, and care for those who are hurting. Surely, this is what God wants us to focus on rather than just the rules of Lent. This is a time for us to renew our commitment to finding God in others by providing food for the homeless, speaking out against capital punishment, donating our time and love to a child in need. It is also closer to home that God calls us to find him, in those we live and work with such as the boss who we think is unjust, the family member who seems to annoy us on purpose, the lonely neighbor, etc. A little further in the chapter God tells Isaiah if we do these things:
“Then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom shall become like midday. Then the Lord will guide you always and satisfy your thirst in parched places, will give strength to your bones, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a flowing spring whose waters never fail.”
We can never outdo our God in love and generosity.
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