The Lord heard and had mercy on me; the Lord became my helper.
Show gracious favour, O Lord, we pray, to the works of penance. We have begun, that we may have strength to accomplish with sincerity the bodily observances we undertake. Through our Lord.
Is such the fast that I choose?
A reading from the Book of Isaiah 58:1-9a
Thus says the Lord GOD. “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgements, they delight to draw near to God. ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it? ’Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord? “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, 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 him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am.”
The word of the Lord.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM Psalm51:3-4.5-6ab.18-19(R.19bc)
R/. A broken and humbled heart, O God, you will not spurn.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your merciful love;
according to your great compassion,
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me completely from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin. R/.
My transgressions, truly I know them;
My sin is always before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
What is evil in your sight I have done. R/.
For in sacrifice you take no delight;
Burnt offering from me would not please you.
My sacrifice to God, a broken spirit:
A broken and humbled heart,
O God, you will not spurn. R/.
VERSE BEFORE THE GOSPEL Amos 5:14
Glory and praise to you, O Christ. Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and the Lord will be with you. Glory and praise to you, O Christ.
“When the bridegroom is taken from them, then they will fast.”
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (Matthew 9:14-15)
At that time: The disciples of John came to Jesus, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
There is no doubt that fasting is a form of self-denial. It is willful refusal to eat food for the sake of a cause. Religious fasting is abstaining from food to show piety and commitment to God. It differs from fasting which some social activists could undergo to press down on their agitation. Such fasting is fasting as a protest. Some people could fast from food because of health reasons, such as some laboratory tests, and fasting to reduce obesity. Christian fasting however, should be borne out of love for God, and has to be accompanied with prayer. The disciples of John were used to fasting but were surprised that those of Jesus were not fasting; hence, they asked why they and the Pharisees fast, but not Jesus’ disciples, Jesus answered them in a dismissive way indicating a tone that there is a fundamental difference between his disciples and the rest.