This, rather, is the fasting that I wish.
“What are you doing for Lent?” It’s a question you’ve probably been asked more than once this week. Many of us will answer with something like, “I’m giving up desserts—or chocolate or alcohol—and going to Stations of the Cross on Fridays.” And we should. Giving up things for Lent helps us refocus our attention on the Lord. But there’s another side to fasting that has to do with the way we relate to the people around us. Scripture shows us what this can look like.
Isaiah makes it clear that the fasting God wants is to see yokes untied, bread shared with the hungry, and the homeless sheltered. He doesn’t want us to turn our back on anyone. How is this kind of social awareness linked to fasting? Because denying ourselves something simple like dessert can help us become less attached to our own comfort and pleasure. And that kind of detachment can open our eyes to the needs of other people. It can also bring us to the point where we can put aside our comfort for the sake of reaching out to our brothers and sisters in need.
But there’s more to fasting than giving up sweets. We can also fast from what we want to do. We can fast from those things we think we have a right to, like our free time. That kind of fast can free us up to join a group that makes sandwiches and gives them out to the hungry in a local park. Or if we give up our right to keep extra clothing, we could clear out our closet and send some good clothes—not just the old or outgrown ones—to people devastated by a natural disaster.
God is inviting you to learn more of his ways during Lent. So yes, deny your normal appetites and press in to know him more. Go without some treat or spend more time in prayer. But also extend yourself toward other people. Let the Lord use your fasting to free you up to serve. Your Lenten fast will start to find its expression in concrete, everyday actions that touch people around you.
word among us