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Page Background Friday after Ash Wednesday

Isaiah 58:1-9A

Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 18-19

Matthew 9:14-15



Today’s readings dwell heavily on one of the three focal points of our

Lenten obligation– fasting. The passage from Isaiah is quick to point out

that fasting from abundance and lying in sackcloth and ashes, although

admirable and on the right track for a sinful people, is not the type of fast-

ing that is acceptable to the Lord. Rather, the Lord wishes an opening of

the heart and acts of goodness and charity toward one’s fellow man

(“releasing those bound unjustly…setting free the oppressed…breaking

every yoke…sharing your bread with the hungry…sheltering the op-

pressed and the homeless….clothing the naked when you see them…and

not turning your back on your own.”). The excerpt from Psalm 51 notes

that God is not pleased with sacrifices such as a burnt offering and will not

accept them. Instead, our sacrifice should be a “contrite spirit, a heart

contrite and humbled.” In the Gospel reading, John the Baptist’s disciples

complain to Jesus that they and the Pharisees follow the law and fast in a

very public way and Jesus’ disciples do not. Jesus rebukes them and re-

minds them that fasting comes from within and not from outside appear-




Fasting and abstinence have been

synonymous with Lent for as long

as I can remember. As a child (and

even as an adult), it was hard to

understand at times how giving up

something I really liked (ice cream,

chocolate, wine) for forty days

could make me holier or wipe away

my sins. I almost always craved

what I had given up and usually

broke the fast sometime before

Holy Thursday, ending up feeling

guilty and sinful all over again, as if

I had “wasted” Lent and disap-

pointed God.