How Would Jesus Fast?

“Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed. “
– Isaiah 58:5-8

But, Lord, this doesn’t sound like fasting. It sounds like a lot of doing. Service. Social Justice. Corporal works of mercy. What, really, am I “giving up” here, Lord?

“The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.” – St. Basil the Great


I see.

I really do have excess in just about every way, don’t I?

I have clothes I don’t wear, but I still buy more. I eat my fill, but how often do I finish my plate? Money is tight, but I have a savings account, and enough for that latte. And my time, my precious time that I cling to so tightly – how often does it tick away, second by second, into the abyss of the trivial?

My fasting is not meant to stop with me. It is meant to drive me outward. There’s a reason fasting is only one of three Lenten practices. Prayer is the way we hear the voice of God. Almsgiving, charity, justice – these are the ways we manifest God’s mercy in the world. Fasting is not merely for me. It is for Us, the Body of Christ, and those whom we can reach with his healing touch.

Lord, how are you calling me to love you in the poor and vulnerable this Lent?

This reflection was originally written for the Christus Ministries Lenten Blog.

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