Is 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? 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 them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? -Isaiah 58:6-7
I used to give up something for Lent every year. Sometimes it was chocolate. Sometimes it was meat. In college, I essentially lived on cereal and coffee (for most of my meals, not just breakfast). So I decided to give up both of those one year – it was not pretty, but I did it. In reflection on these times, i realize that I tended to approach these Lenten fasts more as personal challenges than as spiritual disciplines. They didn’t bring me closer to God. They didn’t help me live into my best self. They just made me really want to have chocolate, or meat, or coffee and cereal as soon as Easter arrived.
So these words from Isaiah offer some helpful grounding for me as I begin this season of Lent. Many fast during this time, but I hope we may all remember why we do it. Some might choose to fast and save the money they would have spent on that item and then give it to charity.
God does not ask for sacrifices just for the sake of denying ourselves something. Isaiah reminds us that if our fasting is only about us as individuals, we have missed the point. It is also about care and concern for all of God’s children. Lent invites us into a deeper relationship with God, with one another, with our very selves.
God of feasts and fasts, help us to seek you in this season of Lent. May we live into your vision for us, so that we may be agents of justice and mercy and grace to others. Amen.