by Erik Ritland
"Everything is a gift, and fasting reminds us that it is God that is most important in our lives, not whatever we are fasting from. By fasting, we show that we are controlled by God, not by our passions."
Fully Alive’s Lenten Scriptural Commentary helps Christians get more out of Lent by taking God’s word seriously.
Mostly avoiding personal stories and anecdotes, our commentary dives deeply into the scripture readings for each day and applies them to the broader context of Lent. We use the daily Mass readings from the Catholic lectionary.
If possible, read each passage slowly, taking in each word. If you find that you’ve hurried through a reading, read it over a few more times. Let the words reverberate in your heart. After you’ve let it sink in, read our Lenten Scriptural Commentary.
Friday after Ash Wednesday
Isaiah explains that a “day acceptable to the Lord” is one filled with compassion and mercy for those who need it most. Jesus scandalizes by not having his disciples fast, but it’s for a very important reason.
We draw closer to the image of God the more that we fast, pray, and give to the poor. This is an important way to become intimate with Him.
Readings: Is 58:1-9a/Mt 9:14-15
Click here to read the complete text from the USCCB website
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
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.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!
(Cf. Is 58: 1-9a)
Social justice is a bedrock of being a Christian. When we do what is asked of us in this reading – fight oppression, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked – we are living “a day acceptable to the Lord.” God calls us to do this – to do!
Only then will we receive those beautiful promises stated so poetically: vindication by God, protection by God, God answering our prayers.
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
"Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?"
Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast."
(Mt 9: 14-5)
Fasting is for those who are mourning. Jesus is God in the flesh; His presence in the world is no time for mourning. Therefore, Jesus’ disciples didn’t fast.
We fast to remember our reliance on God. Everything is a gift, and fasting reminds us that it is God that is most important in our lives, not whatever we are fasting from. By fasting, we show that we are controlled by God, not by our passions.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician. The founder of Fully Alive Christian Media, he also created The Minnesota Sport Ramble and is a writer and copy editor for Music in Minnesota. He was Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Curious North and Hometown Hustle. Reach him via email.
Erik Ritland received his MA in Theology in 2017. He's the founder and content manager of Fully Alive Christian Media and Rambling On, copy editor and writer for Music in Minnesota, and an acclaimed songwriter.