Friday after Ash Wednesday
First Reading: Isaiah 58:1-9a
Ps. 51:3-.4.5-6ab.18-19 Gospel: Mk 9:14-15. Our readings today reminds us that it is possible to do good things for the wrong reason. In the first reading, the Jews thought that they were devout because they were observing the tradition. Isaiah reminds them that the traditions they observed were not really required by God. Their rituals had become merely a traditional activity with no moral benefit. They still oppressed their workers and were not righteous. Their fasting was just a religious observance.
Today, we too can fall into this syndrome, putting questions of rituals on a higher platform than they deserve, while leaving the substance of charity. The church has offered us this season of lent for a reason. It should not be seen as merely observance of church tradition but a time of blessing from God. Our blessing will be realized through clothing the naked, fighting for justice, feeding the hungry and to advocate for those who have no home. We need to think and pray about loving our neighbor as ourselves. We should not do these things to be seen by others, for this does not impress God.
We normally link fasting with reducing our intake of food. But Isaiah defined fasting in anew way. We need to identify and reduce the things that damage and oppress other people. All those in need are looking at us in order to promote justice on their behalf. Therefore, Genuine fasting cannot be separated from almsgiving, or sharing our resources with others.
The church recommends the three great Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Isaiah reminds us that all three stand or fall together. They are three pillars of a worthy life. Fasting is saying “no” to something. Isaiah reminds us that such saying “no” is with a view to saying “YES” to a greater service of our neighbor. Christian fasting should be borne out of love for God, and has to be accompanied with a prayer any service done in love is very acceptable to God and gives substance to anything else we may do for Lent. Let us pray and Fast that we may not be tempted for our lord tells us that the devil is cast out by prayer and fasting (Mt 17:21). Let us increase our works of Mercy for those who are in need, ‘The least of our Brethren’.