FRIDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY
READ: Isaiah 58: 1-9
1 “Cry aloud, spare not,
lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek me daily,
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments,
they delight to draw near to God.
3 ‘Why have we fasted, and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no notice of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a rush,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 “Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am."
Today we hear the Prophet Isaiah challenging the Israelites. They fasted but had forgotten the true meaning of their sacrifice. We hear that even as they fasted they fought amongst themselves, acted unjustly, and were self seeking. Even worse, they were so blind to their own shortcomings that they began to presume. "Why is God not speaking to us?" they ask, without realizing they were making themselves deaf by sin. Through the Prophet, God reminds them, and us, that true fasting always leads to growth in humility and charity.
C.S. Lewis captures this reality perfectly in his awesome definition of humility. He says, "Humility does not mean we should think less of ourselves, but think about ourselves less". Authentic humility is not about parading around our own unworthiness, but emphasizing other's goodness. Think about it like a conversation at a party. You can spend the whole time talking with your friends about how horrible you are, which keeps the focus on you; or you can point out how good the food is, how gracious the host is, or even (daringly) let someone else speak. True humility takes the focus off of us, and puts it on goodness of God and the needs of others.
When we take the focus off of ourselves, we see how many people in our midst are spiritually and materially bound by wickedness, oppressed, naked, hungry, and homeless. In each circumstance, we are called to give of ourselves. To help. To love. To be like beggars, showing other beggars where to find food.
Ultimately, God reminds us today, the true fast of lent is from ourselves.
What have you given up for Lent? Why?
How is your Lenten sacrifice helping you grow in humility and love?
How are you responding to Jesus' call to give alms this lent?
Read verses 6 and 7. How does God fulfill His own command in Jesus?
What convicted you in the passage? Why?
R. 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. 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."
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.
What attitude, action, belief, or habit is God calling you to grow in today?