Lent reflection for 19 February
“Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me… to break unjust fetters and … to let the oppressed go free?”
Fasting can be difficult. Many of us are so used to an abundance, to having what we want when we want it, that the act of self-denial is a real challenge.
However, in today’s reading from Isaiah we are reminded what God really wants from us when we fast.
Fasting is, then, not a purely personal act. It is not something we do to make ourselves feel miserable, or virtuous, as we deny ourselves what we want.
A joyful fast
Rather, fasting is something active that leads us to make a change in our world. It is a joyful commitment, which causes us to speak out against injustice and support our brothers and sisters who are poor.
In Isaiah, the fast that God wants to see includes sharing our bread with the hungry and sheltering the homeless. But it is not just about these simple acts of charity. It is also about breaking the systems that keep people in these situations of poverty and building a world where all can flourish.
As Pope Francis says in his latest encyclical, “Isolation and withdrawal into one’s own interests are never the way to restore hope and bring about renewal.” (Fratelli Tutti, #30).
He calls for a better kind of politics, one that is truly at the service of the common good. He reminds us that “it is an equally indispensable act of love to strive to organise and structure society so that one’s neighbour will not find himself in poverty.” (Fratelli Tutti, #186).
This Lent, then, we pray that our fasting may be undertaken joyfully and that it will lead us to work towards a fairer world.
God of all, may my fast be pleasing to you. Give me a hunger for justice and a desire to change the world so that all may flourish. Amen.
Meditate with our Stations of the Cross reflection, in slide-show format, for use on your own or perhaps with a group online, on Fridays during Lent.