Lent: Time of Redemption (Preparation)
Rev Mathew Samuel
MTC Dallas-Farmers Branch.
6 Is not this the fast that I choose:to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house;when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
This passage is all about God indictment of His people for wrongly motivated religious practices and His ways of redemption. Fasting cannot be mechanized, for it will turn into a mere ceremony without proper fruits. It doesn’t mean fasting is to be abandoned. Fasting is right and proper; but that which God approves will prompt to, and will be followed by, deeds of justice, kindness, charity. The prophet proceeds to specify very particularly what God required, and when the observance of seasons of fasting would be acceptable to Him.
The people say they are involved in fasting. The people feel that God has let them down. That their fasting is not acknowledged by God (58:3). That their prayers are not heard. But here we see a God who does not sympathize with a people who have turned their fasting as a mere ritual, but instead God calls forth His righteous judgment. God here identifies a disconnect between their religious practice and their evident injustice. This has to be cleared first. Fasting and prayer are always appropriate when they are appropriately motivated.
Another striking point here is the indictment that people fast and pray for their own self-interest (58:3b). We, in our cultural setting, have this idea that we fast and pray just for ourselves. But God reminds His people that they are not to fast for their own self-interest but for the good of, the redemption of the other people.
The fruits of our fasting should be that your brother is redeemed, that he is fed when he is hungry, that he is satisfied when he is in affliction (58:10). Then says the Lord that your prayers will be answered and you shall be made strong (58:11).
When our practices constitutes meaning, when there is a sense of justice and love in what we do, then God redeems those who acknowledge their mistakes and confess their sins (59:1ff).
When we live as a channel to redeem others, God redeems us.
Our loving God, forgive us the times when our spiritual practices have been made meaningless due to our lack of compassion and mercy. We confess that we have turned our back to others in their time of need and sufferings. Lord, help us to be channels of grace and redemption. Amen.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:
It is easy to blame God and neighbour for our ills than to take a deeper and more painful look at our own shortcomings as a way through which grace and justice will be confirmed on us.