Memory of Jesus crucified

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Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Isaiah 58,1-9a

Shout for all you are worth, do not hold back, raise your voice like a trumpet. To my people proclaim their rebellious acts, to the House of Jacob, their sins. They seek for me day after day, they long to know my ways, like a nation that has acted uprightly and not forsaken the law of its God. They ask me for laws that are upright, they long to be near God: 'Why have we fasted, if you do not see, why mortify ourselves if you never notice?' Look, you seek your own pleasure on your fastdays and you exploit all your workmen; look, the only purpose of your fasting is to quarrel and squabble and strike viciously with your fist. Fasting like yours today will never make your voice heard on high. Is that the sort of fast that pleases me, a day when a person inflicts pain on himself? Hanging your head like a reed, spreading out sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call fasting, a day acceptable to Yahweh? Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me: to break unjust fetters, to undo the thongs of the yoke. to let the oppressed go free, and to break all yokes? Is it not sharing your food with the hungry, and sheltering the homeless poor; if you see someone lacking clothes, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own kin? Then your light will blaze out like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over. Saving justice will go ahead of you and Yahweh's glory come behind you. Then you will cry for help and Yahweh will answer; you will call and he will say, 'I am here.' If you do away with the yoke, the clenched fist and malicious words,

 

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

In the period following the Babylonian exile, fasting was an ascetic practice for the entire people intended to rediscover the primacy of God in life. It is analogue to what is asked of us Christians in Lent. We need to recuperate the primacy of God in our personal life and in that of the Community. The prophet Isaiah's words condemn the rituality of prayer and fasting that is disconnected from love for the poor and from the practice of justice. "Is such the fast that I choose", says the Lord. It is not possible to have communion with God without practicing justice and love for the oppressed and the poor. The prophet warns that the Lord is deaf to the prayer of the selfish person who only seeks his own interest, perhaps oppressing his workers and starting quarrels and disputes for personal advantage. In a series of stronger and stronger statements, the prophet shows religious people what kind of fasting is pleasing to God: to support and love the poor, to loosen the oppressed from every yoke of slavery, to share bread and even life with the hungry, to help the miserable, and to clothe the naked. And when he invites the reader "not to hide yourself from your own kin" (v. 7), he seems to indicate a great, loving dream, which is made fully real in Jesus: the poor are not the object of our service, they are "our flesh," that is, they are a part of our family, our brothers and sisters, our "kin." It is not natural to think of the poor in this way, especially in our individualistic culture. We need to listen to the Word of God to welcome into our hearts the compassion that the Lord has for the poor and weak. Those who welcome this love into their hearts can pray to the Lord and trustingly wait for an answer that is full of mercy.