Friday, February 28, 2020

releasing the captives

"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..." (Is. 58:6)

Isn't it great how, on this Friday immediately following Ash Wednesday, the readings of the day call us back to Ash Wednesday, and "rend your hearts, not your garments"? 

It's almost the equivalent of asking, "You're three days into this now - how's it going?"

This is a good chance to evaluate our start, and, just as this reading calls out Isaiah's audience for their fickleness and weakness - it's a good opportunity for us to acknowledge the difficulties inherent in our Lenten observances:

"Lo, on your fast day you carry our your own pursuits, 
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw..."

This isn't just about how grumpy we may be after fasting on Ash Wednesday ;-) (because let's be honest, the hangry is real)... It's about evaluating whether the disciplines we observe during Lent will ultimately lead us to become more other-centered, instead of self-centered:

"This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly...
setting free the oppressed...
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..."

And, just as the text makes clear that fasting from material goods without a simultaneous change of heart is not what the Divine asks, so God also reveals that "fasting" by caring for the needs of others (which can include setting aside our own pride and desire to be first or most important), contributes to the healing of our own infirmities:

"Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, 
and your wound shall quickly be healed..." 

So, how *is* Lent going so far? Easier or harder than you expected? What's more challenging - acts of physical self-denial, or using the self-discipline you gain from those acts to fuel kinder treatment and deeper care of others? 

And to a different point, how are you one of those captives, bound unjustly, who also needs to be set free? We don't often focus on the seeking healing during Lent, and I think we should - because our own healing can only help us to do more good for others.

Where do you need healing in your life: where are your wounds? And how can your healing, your freeing, be fueled by "setting free the oppressed" or "sharing your bread with the hungry" in your daily life?  

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