Today's readings focus on fasting. The prophet Isaiah (58:1-9a) invites us to consider what true fasting is all about. Speaking the words of the Lord, Isaiah tells the people that they need to do more than deny their bodies food; there must also be a fundamental change of heart. It goes along with Joel's cry to the people from Wednesday -- "rend your hearts, not your garments." Lent is about interior conversion. Practices like fasting are meant to lead us to acknowledge our spiritual hunger.
I know some people who are starving themselves spiritually and don't even know it. They have been "hungry" for so long that they accept it as the natural state. Away from the nourishment we all need for life that, especially in Lent, the Church asks us to consider what it is that we're really missing.
The Lord wants His people to do more than just fast: "...This is the fasting that I wish, releasing those bound unjustly ... setting free the oppressed ... 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."
Jesus picks up the same theme in the Gospel (Matthew 9: 14-15). Just two verses but a powerful message. Disciples of John the Baptist ask him why, unlike the Pharisees and the Baptist and his disciples, he and his disciples do not fast. He asks "Can the wedding mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? ...when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast."
When we think of fasting we think of food and ought to think about the One who said:"I am the Bread of Life".
Today is a Friday. It is Lent. So, no meat.