Isaiah 58: 1-9a
Psalm 51: 3-4, 5-6ab, 18-19
Matthew 9: 14-15
It can easily be seen that the common theme of the readings today is the meaning of fasting. And what better day to have this theme than the first Friday of Lent, only a few days into our Lenten journey of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving? I absolutely love the responsorial Psalm today because it shows the disposition our heart should have when fasting. “A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.” The definition of “contrite” from www.dictionary.com is “filled with a sense of guilt and the desire for atonement”. As we begin this season of fasting, our hearts should be truly sorry and saddened for offending our good and gracious God from whom we deserve absolutely nothing.
This disposition of the heart is exactly what the Israelites are lacking in the first reading today from Isaiah. In this passage, the people of Israel are fasting because they have been exiled and want God to save them from their exile. They see themselves as the victims of a great injustice, and they think by fasting, God will give them the justice they “deserve”. However, they couldn’t be more wrong. They are a sinful nation who turned against God, and they don’t deserve anything from Him. And until they change their attitude towards the situation and begin fasting so as to show they are sorry for their wrongdoings, God will not hear them and come to their aid.
So the question we should ask ourselves today is why are we fasting? Do we see fasting as a way to prove our righteousness and gain favor from God? Or do we see fasting as a way to grow closer to God by acknowledging how we have done Him wrong and begging His mercy?
Only when we have genuinely humble and contrite hearts and see ourselves as the undeserving sinners that we are, will we be able to truly appreciate all that the bridegroom has done for us and rejoice in His lifesaving presence.
Stephanie is a first year FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) Missionary at the University of Kentucky. She graduated from Georgia Southern University with a degree in Biology/Pre-Medicine and plans to go back to get her Masters in Prosthetics and Orthotics after serving with FOCUS.