This, rather, is the fasting that I wish

Of the three practices that we focus on in Lent—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—it’s the last that we can find the most challenging, especially if it means going beyond putting some money in the poor box.   While many of us are already in the practice of giving to the needy during Lent, it can be harder to find opportunities to serve the poor in person.

Often we begin Lent with a sincere desire to help people who are in need, but somehow the whole season gets away from us before we are able to find a way to serve.   With today being just the sixth day of Lent, we still have plenty of time to make a concrete decision about what we will do!

Are you not sure where to start? Maybe a call to your parish office would be a good first step.   Ask about opportunities to help with a parish clothing drive, a food pantry, or the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul.   More than simply giving a donation—which is always good—look for opportunities that bring you into direct contact with those less fortunate than you.   That’s when your heart changes—when you look into the eyes of those you are serving and recognize them as your brothers and sisters.

If you don’t find something at first, keep looking.   Check your diocesan newspaper, or visit the local charities in your area.   Catholic newspapers often have listings of area charities that are looking for volunteers.   Who knows?   Maybe you can even turn this into a permanent thing once Lent is over.   After all, Jesus reminds us that the poor we will always have with us, not just during Lent (Matthew 26:11)!

Today’s passage from Isaiah is a dramatic reminder that Jesus is looking at the motives of our hearts just as much as our outward actions.   As much as he loves it when we fast, he is also looking for people who are seeking to set the oppressed free, share their bread with the hungry, shelter the homeless, and clothe the naked (Isaiah 58:6-7).   What’s more, if we do this, God promises,  “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed. . . . You shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!” (58:8, 9).

Word Among Us