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

Seriously, can you guys make up your mind! I can almost hear this from the pew as I prepare this reflection. Well for starters, the clarion cry of the Church on Ash Wednesday was voiced by the choice of the readings; fast through Lent, albeit privately. Two days later, the Friday after Ash Wednesday, God seems to say in the first reading that He does not want our fast; or should I say almost abhors the fast of the Israelites.

Jesus compounds the matter by answering the disciples of John the Baptist, who strangely have joined the voices of the Pharisees, in asking why Jesus’ disciples don’t fast. His reply, “Can the wedding guest’s mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?” So why then are we fasting during Lent?

Put your mind to rest! ‘BE CALM and FAST ON’. I say this because all we need is a better understanding of the first reading. Taken from the final section of Isaiah, known as “Third Isaiah” (Isaiah 56-66), the first reading, was written to the residents of Jerusalem during and after Israel’s return in 539 BCE.  The Babylonian exile had lasted 50 years, and under prophets like Haggai and Zechariah the people have returned to rebuild their homeland. In the midst of this joyful return they were expecting a reward especially for their fasts. What they get is instead is God’s judgment.  They Israelites were genuinely confused. They think that by fasting they will please God and bring favour. Indeed, how could God not be pleased? And yet He was not!

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