Readings and Reflection for March 4, Friday after Ash Wednesday


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  Psalm 51:3-4.5-6ab.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/.

R/. A broken and humbled heart, O God, you will not spurn.

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/.

Gospel Acclamation: 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

True fasting is not abstaining from food as many people think. No, true fasting as Isaiah teaches is creating justice for the oppressed, breaking the yoke of bondage, the yoke of slavery, kindness to the hungry, the poor and needy, clothing the naked, housing the homeless; generosity. Begin today, be authentic, serve God and stop acting.

It takes a real man to stand up for what is right even when the whole world seems to be going the opposite direction. In Matthew 9:14-15, we see how Jesus displayed this virtue with the issue of fasting. Jesus knew the tradition of fasting among the people but the least of his concern was to try to please the people. Indeed, what we learn from this act is that it is better to appear like a sinner before the crowd while you are saint inside than to appear like a saint before people and remain a devil at heart.

Today, we are challenged to rise up to a new virtue; the virtue of authenticity – living and acting based on one’s deep personal convictions of what is right according to the truth not minding people’s opinion.

Authenticity is a very rare, nothing seems real anymore. The crave for social relevance; the crave to make others fall in love with you; the crave for popularity has taken away authenticity from today’s world. People no longer do things because they are right but because they “appear” right to others.
And this is what the prophet Isaiah teaches us in Chapter 58:1-9. Just as there is a type of smile that does not reach the heart (the wicked smile used by the enemy), there is also a type of fasting that is not authentic; a fasting that condoles injustice, lies, evil, seeking of sensual pleasures and so on. Isaiah says such fasting is only for the people eyes – it does not carry our prayers to God. Behave as Jesus would do at all times.


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