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Friday after Ash Wednesday
Isaiah 58:1-9A
Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 18-19
Matthew 9:14-15
Isaiah speaks of fasting and encourages penance, but he also speaks of a different sort
of fast. “This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying
the thongs of the 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.” Today’s psalm response is, “A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you
will not spurn.” In the very brief gospel, the disciples of John ask Jesus why his disci-
ples do not fast. Jesus explains that wedding guests do not mourn while the bride-
groom is with them, but he also predicts that the disciples will fast when the bride-
groom is taken away from them.
In many ways, I welcome Lent this year. It’s been a tough few months.
I’m conscious of the mandate to clothe the naked and feed the hungry and shelter the
oppressed and the homeless and untie the thongs of the yoke…, and most of us take
this passage literally. It’s when we try to figure out how this is best accom-
plished that we run into trouble and civilized dialogue is sometimes rare.
Isaiah cautions not to turn our backs on our own. The psalmist speaks of hu-
mility. Yes, the disciples did experience Jesus being taken away from them
as Jesus said they would. At times we may feel an absence of Jesus, but we
have been given the promise that he is with us and will be with us forever.
We believe that we are the Body of Christ.
As I write this, I find I am tired of the turmoil, the disagreements and nasty
rhetoric of the political season, the anger over misuse of power within our
Church, the judgmental attitudes aimed at the President of the United States
on the one hand or the Speaker of the House on the other… our former
Archbishop or our present one… women in the church who seek change or
those who believe change is not permissible. The list is lengthy, and we’ve
all witnessed plenty of conflict in our country, in our church communities, in
our neighborhoods, in our families.
We can’t remove ourselves from the world or our responsibility to help find
answers to the world’s problems. I believe we are called to act as our con-
sciences dictates, but I’m praying for a little respite this Lent. I want to look
into the faces of those with whom I disagree and see the Body of Christ. I