Reflections on the first Friday of Lent

Is that the sort of fast that pleases me, a day when a person inflicts pain on himself? Hanging your head like a reed, spreading out sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call fasting, a day acceptable to Yahweh?
Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me: to break unjust fetters, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break all yokes?
Is it not sharing your food with the hungry, and sheltering the homeless poor; if you see someone lacking clothes, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own kin?
Then your light will blaze out like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over. Saving justice will go ahead of you and Yahweh’s glory come behind you.

Isaiah 58, 5-8

A part of today’s first reading. I heard it this morning at Mass and it stayed with me. It’s an inspiration to further develop my participation in this Lent. Lent is not a time of passivity but requires activity on the part of the faithful.

A detail from Pieter Breugel the Elder's 'The Fight between Carnival and Lent', depicting the emaciated figure of Lent.

As the bishop said in his homily, fasting in Lent is not about eating a sandwich less or not having a cookie with your tea. In Lent, we are invited to (re)turn to God, examine our lives and daily affairs and consider them in the light of Christ’s sacrifice of Easter.

That is why we received a cross of ash on our foreheads last Wednesday, to indicate that we are aware that we have strayed and that we are willing to remedy that.

Fasting is not a tragedy. Its ultimate goal, the return to God, makes it a joy. That is why Matthew writes:

‘When you are fasting, do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they go about looking unsightly to let people know they are fasting. In truth I tell you, they have had their reward.

But when you fast, put scent on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6, 16-18

So, how is your Lent going?