Prepare to listen. Remind yourself God is present, closer to you than you are to yourself. Pray: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me (Ps 51:10).
Read Isaiah 58:5-9a
5Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
6Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you
the glory of the LORD shall be your rearguard.
9Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
These are among the most challenging words in Scripture. The LORD is unimpressed with disciplined and pious fasting (see vv 1-4), demanding far more from us. Instead of a fast that gives up favorite food or drink, God calls us to become more neighborly to all peoples, regardless of status, race, gender, creed. We’re to give up injustice, that is, those practices that deny some people access to resources so necessary for living and thriving. We’re to give up oppressing the poor and despised and instead let them live as freely as we do. A true fast means “doing without, denying self, and giving things up in obedience” (Walter Brueggemann). It’s about sharing our bread with the hungry, sharing our homes with the homeless, sharing our clothes with the naked. People in need, whoever they may be, from whatever side of the border) aren’t to be treated as outsiders because, declares Isaiah, they are ‘your own kin,’ having the same strong ties as our blood family. This will mean giving up our individualism and accepting the ties with all peoples. And what do we get for doing this? Notice the word ‘then’ in verses 8 and 9. God will generously respond and will answer our cries for help.
What can you take on or give up this Lent that will help overcome injustice in your community?
Respond in prayer
Compassionate Lord, help me discern how I can give back to my society so that injustice is alleviated for those experiencing the oppression by our unjust and thoughtless ways. Give me the courage to share my bread, my home, my clothing with those who are in need. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world practicing a true fast.
Reading the Bible has always been essential to followers of Jesus. I've been reading, studying, teaching and writing reflections on biblical texts for as long as I can remember. I invite you to read the Bible with me during the Lent and into Easter Sunday.