Friday after Ash Wednesday
1st Reading: Is 58:1-9a
Thus says the Lord God: Cry out full-throated and unsparingly, lift up your voice like a trumpet blast; Tell my people their wickedness and 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 law of their God; they ask me to declare what is due them, pleased to gain access to God. “Why do we fast, and you do not see it? Afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?” Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers. Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw. Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high! Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bows his head like a reed and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. 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!
Gospel: Mt 9:14-15
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
IT IS CELEBRATION TIME: The right way to fast, with a contrite heart is the true meaning of rejoicing because Jesus the Prince is with us. Jesus is the bridegroom, the reason for joy and merriment. Now that we have Him always in the Eucharist, and in His Word. During adversities or natural calamities such as we are experiencing with Corona, our mental health takes a beating and we tend to sink into negativity and depression. We are reminded today that there is need to work towards ensuring that we, as individuals and collectively as a community, are resilient to the challenges that lay ahead of us. And the best way is to find trust and confidence in the Lord who stays with us. Let us count on Him to steer our ship and guide our life along the choppy waters of life.
Prayer: God guide our destinies, but lead us to you in our daily lives.
WORSHIP IS AN ACT OF LOVE: The multiplicity of religious groups and churches is a testimony to the statement that man is fundamentally religious. There is an aspect of the human person that tends to drive him towards transcendence and ultimately towards God. Human transcendence is most discernible in the most sublime of gifts – the gift of love. Isaiah warns the Israelites that their worship is useless unless it is sensitive to the needs of others. Their fast and ceremonies are in vain as long as they continue to ignore the plight of the poor. Their prayers will remain unheard as long as they champion unjust acts and uncharitable conduct that keep them away from God. Worship is not in the words of praise, the song and dance nor the fragrance of incense that fill our churches. True worship is in acts of love that mirror the love of God for humanity. It is the exercise that draws the divine to the humans and the humans to the divine. The best adoration is time spent in the company of God concealed in the suffering of the poor, vulnerable and marginalized.
NO BURNT OFFERINGS, BUT WORKS OF CHARITY: Would you rather fast in order to be heard by the Almighty? If so, you will have to change your methodology. Isaiah is very clear on what should be done on a fast day. To be pleasing in the sight of God, change your conduct. “Is not this the fast 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 58:6). Jesus presents himself as the bridegroom in whose company celebration prevails. Pleasing God therefore is celebrating the company of the bridegroom and not aping what the Pharisees do. In a journey with the Lord, the pleasing works of mercy are given: care for the marginalized, and never turn your back against them; clothe the naked; feed the hungry; comfort the afflicted. It is only then that “…you shall call and the Lord will answer” (Is 58:9). A Christian has to drop diplomacy in order to be authentic and sincere. Let us find the Lord who longs for our company than take refuge in pretensions.