many people fast during lent. but what is the goal of fasting?
i have always loved the scripture from the ash wednesday office of readings in the liturgy of the hours. it shows us various dimensions of fasting. i am always drawn to the actions of justice and the change of heart required for these actions to be fully righteous. here is the scripture from isaiah chapter 58:
“Cry out full-throated and unsparingly, lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Proclaim to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just and not abandoned the judgment of their God;
They ask of me just judgments, they desire to draw near to God.
‘Why do we fast, but you do not see it? afflict ourselves, but you take no note?’
See, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers.
See, you fast only to quarrel and fight and to strike with a wicked fist!
Do not fast as you do today to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I would choose, a day to afflict oneself?
To bow one’s head like a reed, and lie upon sackcloth and ashes?
Is this what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose:
releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke?
Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry, bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house;
Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: ‘Here I am!’
If you remove the yoke from among you, the accusing finger, and malicious speech;
If you lavish your food on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted;
Then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom shall become like midday;
Then the LORD will guide you always
and satisfy your thirst in parched places, will give strength to your bones
And you shall be like a watered garden, like a flowing spring whose waters never fail.
Your people shall rebuild the ancient ruins; the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;
‘Repairer of the breach,’ they shall call you, ‘Restorer of ruined dwellings.’
today, i am drawn to this title from the last verse: “restorer of ruined dwellings.” because of our sin and injustice, there are many “ruined dwellings” in our world. our fasting forms us to help heal the hurt that exists; to restore goodness and peace. is this not love?
all the more with the countless ukrainians who have fled their war-torn country these past days! the “ruined dwellings” are not primarily the bombed out homes, but the devastated ukrainian women and frightened children.
who are the “ruined dwellings” among us that we will encounter this day? this week?
how will our fasting and prayer mold us into being instruments of the Lord who restore these brothers and sisters around us today?