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March 7, 2014

Lenten reflection, day 3

Scripture readings: Isaiah 58:1-9; Psalm 51; Matthew 9:14-15

Unlike the consoling voice we hear during Advent, the Isaiah we hear today is a prophet challenging people who do religious things but who have not let their religion change their hearts. This is a common theme of Jesus later on. It is a pitfall for all of us who might think of ourselves as religious or as “practicing Catholics.”

Isaiah afflicts the comfortable people of his time with an observation: Sure, you fast, but what good is it doing you or the world? You fight and quarrel and oppress the poor. Our fasting is meant to begin within the body and then to change our hearts.

Isaiah calls people to something much harder than fasting—to do the works of justice. “This rather is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke, setting the oppressed free, sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and clothing the naked.”

Lent is a call to practice the corporal works of mercy and social justice in our broken world, and that’s a lot harder than just going to daily Mass and giving up desserts for a few weeks!

Rev. John McKenna, C.Ss.R.
Brooklyn, N.Y. 

Download our 2014 Lenten reflections booklet here.

Flickr photo by Skott Khuu

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