First Reading: Is 58:1-9a; Psalm: 51. R. v. 19bc; Gospel: Mt 9:14-15
THE MANUAL OF FASTING
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
A man bought a satellite dish. When he got home, he coupled and fastened it on a metal pole and connected the cable wires to the decoder and the television. But when he switched them on, there was no signal. He couldn’t understand what was going on. And while he was wondering, his son said to him, “The manual Dad, follow the manual.” The man uncoupled the satellite dish and recoupled it again following the manual this time around. “Can you see!” said the son. “It’s working perfectly fine.”
Never ignore the manual of fasting and abstinence, lest our sacrifice will lose its signal. It will never reach God.
The people of Israel had observed the religious obligation of fasting and abstinence yet God paid no heed to their prayers. And they complained to God, “Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?” And the Lord sent the prophet Isaiah to tell them that they have been doing it the wrong way. Because in the day of their fasting, they sought their own pleasure, oppressed their workers, quarrelled, and fought. And such kind of fasting does not please God. Though they fasted, but they ignored the manual of fasting. And for this reason their sacrifices never reached God.
The Lord then gave them the manual. It says: ‘Loose the bonds of wickedness, undo the thongs of the yoke, free the oppressed, share bread with the hungry, house the homeless, cover the naked, and hide yourself from your own flesh.’ In this period of Lenten, our fasting can only be fruitful when it goes along with these Corporal Works of Mercy. If we sincerely returned to the Lord in repentance guided by this Lenten manual, our sacrifices will be acceptable to the Lord. “We shall call, and the Lord will answer; we shall cry, and He will say, Here I Am” (Is 58:9).
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord God, convert our hearts to follow your injunctions as we fast. Amen.