Today I took a bus to Soho where I went to mass for a change of environment.
The first reading really hit me, especially in light of my ministry to the LGBT community.
It’s about fasting and how to please 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;
5 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?”
As you can read the first half is really severe and must make us think about fasting and what pleases God.
It’s relatively easy to give up chocolate or wine or something for lent but is that all it’s about? And is there something better that we could give up?
6 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?
7 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?”
Now this flies in the face of what we traditionally think of fasting because instead of being focused on us, it’s outward focused on others.
What’s the point in fasting from food and yet having your neighbour go hungry? Wouldn’t you be better off inviting him over for lent?
What’s the point in going to mass more often if you still discriminate and judge those who are different to you? Wouldn’t you be better off reconciling with them first and asking them for forgiveness?
And so on and so on….
Yet perhaps the most striking part of it for me in light of my own ministry is the part about letting the oppressed go free and breaking the yoke of oppression.
What group has been so oppressed and as the LGBT community and how many of it’s members are stuck in fear, hatred, depression, anxiety, addiction etc. not knowing that there is a loving Jesus who accepts them?
And so my lenten fast becomes very clear. It is not about what I will give up, it’s about who I will help and who I will set free.
Perhaps this too is what the German bishop I spoke of the other day had in mind.
And so today let us all think of who we could set free? Perhaps we need to fast from silence and fear and speak out boldly like this bishop. The sacrifice will be the friends we lose on the way as the prodigal son syndrome is always about when it comes to God’s mercy!
Yet in any case let’s be encouraged because the final part of the reading promises us healing if we fast correctly.
8 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.”
And not only healing but light and protection and justice too!!!
So dear readers let us be encouraged after let us be Angels of justice, freedom and healing this lent as we reconcile more and more lost and rejected sheep with the Father heart of God.