Today we enter the somber season, the season of repentance and fasting. Back in the day, one was expected to at least fast on Ash Wednesday. We’ve lost many of the old traditions of Lent. A local newspaper has a story asking how will we receive ashes on this day when we’re not supposed to touch?
Fasting is one of the oldest of religious rituals, practiced to help bring a person more aware of God and God’s presence and in Old Testament times used as a plea to God for God’s beneficence. However, the prophets castigated those who fasted so publicly while oppressing the poor and needy.
How should we fast today? Not in sackcloth and ashes to bring attention to ourselves but to work for the establishment of a realm of justice and mercy. Our fast should be one of service for others.
Prayer for the Day
You created us, O God, and call us to be your people,
Be with us in this season of Lent as we seek your will;
Turn us from our divided loyalties and our conditional obedience
And remove from us our aimlessness and sin.
Empower us, O God, to reflect the life of the One
Who came to show us how to live as your people
Even Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.
Thoughts for the Day
No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.
St. John Chrysostom, Bishop, preacher (347-407)
Likewise, an age with a Christianity so eager to forgive that it denies the need for forgiveness. For such an age, therefore, Lent can scarcely be too long!
Edna Hatlestad Hong, Kierkegaard translator (1913-2007)
Is this not the fast that I choose: to lose 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, 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