We think of Lent as a time of sackcloth and ashes, of penitence and fasting. And indeed, that is often part of our spiritual discipline. But it is not–should not–be an end in itself. Lent is not a series of boxes to be ticked; rules to be followed.
As the Prophet Isaiah tells the people of Israel in today’s reading when they complain that God does not acknowledge their “humble” fasting: “Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.” To use a modern word, Lent is not about performative actions, but inward preparation, repentance and change.
As Isaiah goes on to say: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose 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, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them…”
This Lent, as we see injustice, oppression and need, both immediately around us and far away, our fasting and preparation should not be turned inwards, focused on ourselves, but turned outwards, focused on our fellow humans.
The Rev. William Morris
Assisting Priest for Engaging Local Communities
Links to the appointed readings for today: