Majoring in Minors – Friday after Ash Wednesday, Isaiah 58:1-9a/Matthew 9:14-15

One Sunday morning during Mass, the congregation was surprised to see two men enter, both covered from head to toe in black and carrying sub-machine guns. One of the men proclaimed, “Anyone willing to take a bullet for Christ, remain where you are.”

Immediately, the congregation fled. Just two people remained in the Church. The man who had spoken took off his hood, looked at the preacher and said, “Okay father, I got rid of all the hypocrites. Now you may continue with the Mass. Have a nice day!” And the two men turned and walked out.

We have just begun the season of Lent and God wants us to purify our intentions lest we go through the season receiving no graces, wondering why we ‘humble ourselves and fast and yet God does not seem to see or take notice’ (Isaiah 30:3) of our spiritual disciplines?

Catholics have just two days of fasting that are mandated by the Church. These two days, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, book end the whole season of Lent. Our fasts during Lent and during the year comes from our personal devotion to God. But a sign with no sincerity like ashes on our head, or a fast with no fidelity, is futile in the eyes of God. It is plain hypocrisy!

In Isaiah chapter 30, Yahweh calls the prophet to address the problem of false religious observance. While chapter 58 highlights two such empty religious observances; namely fasting (vv. 3-12 from the text of today) and Sabbath observance (vv. 13-14 from tomorrows text), the sins of Israel were manifold. God is emphatic, the observance of spiritual disciplines like fasting and keeping the Sabbath has become means of a quid pro quo proposition; a situation in which they can give something in order to receive something. This is nothing short of spiritual arm twisting. Ironically, they desire and even demand to gain God’s blessing while ignoring the hunger, poverty, homelessness, and nakedness of those in need.

The people of Israel have learnt the fine art of majoring in minors. They have learnt how to faithfully keep the lesser parts of the law while neglecting (in Jesus’ later words to the scribes and Pharisees) “the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith” (Matthew 23:23). This is what Lent seeks; not just grand empty gestures but sincerity from the heart.

Our fasting, even though it may be rigorous through lent, is worthless in the eyes of God if it is not matched by a heart that does right by God. In Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, He told how the self-righteous Pharisee made a special point to say, “I fast twice a week” (Luke 18:9-14) yet he did not go away righteous in God’s eyes.

God wants us to be truly devoted to him. This devotion grows naturally out of love for God. People who love God will worship him for the sake of honouring him rather than manipulating him. And if we love God, we will also love those whom God loves, our neighbours. Our love for God and neighbour must be manifested by taking concrete steps to care for those in need; the hungry, poor, homeless and naked.

Do this and you will have life everlasting.

Also take time to read this text which elaborates the Gospel text of today. Click on the title below

BE CALM AND FAST ON- Friday after Ash Wednesday- IS 58:1-9A/MT 9:14-15

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