Lenten Reflection: 2/19/2021
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish. (Isaiah 58:6)
In today’s first reading, God is calling his people to a different kind of fast than we are used to. He tells them, and us, to fast from injustice—to set free those who are oppressed, to feed the hungry, and to clothe the naked. These are big-picture problems that we all need to work together to solve. But what about fasting from the smaller injustices we might commit against the people we interact with each day? This also pleases the Lord. Let’s look at a few examples.
A fast from gossip. Gossiping is an act of injustice because we are, in a sense, stealing the reputation of another person. This can also be the case even if what we say turns out to be true.
A fast from criticism. Constructive criticism can help us to grow, but when it’s not constructive, it tears people down and strikes at their dignity and self-image.
A fast from complaining. When we complain, we end up feeling only more unhappy and discontented. It also has an effect on the people around us, bringing them down and contributing to a negative atmosphere in our homes or workplaces.
A fast from grudges. When we hold a grudge against someone, we are keeping that person captive to the wound they have caused us. We are also holding ourselves prisoners to feelings that harden our hearts over time.
If all this sounds overwhelming, try approaching it from a different direction. How about turning your fasts into feasts? Think about how you can replace negative behaviors with acts of love and kindness.
Instead of gossiping, you could feast on silence and discretion.
Instead of criticizing, you could feast on affirming people.
Instead of complaining, you could feast on counting your blessings and sharing them.
Instead of holding grudges, you could feast on forgiveness.
Remember, you don’t have to do any of this alone. Just as God promised to answer his people’s cries for help, so will he answer you (Isaiah 58:9). Trust that this Lent, he will give you all the grace you need to fast—and to feast!
“Lord, help me to treat other people as you would—with justice.”