Today is Ash Wednesday, and is thus the beginning of Lent; a time of prayer, fasting, reparation and penance. Coincidentally, among the main themes of this blog. This is an excerpt from the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours for today:
Isaiah 58: 5-12:
“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!
If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;
If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted;
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Then the Lord will guide you alway sand give you plenty even on the parched land.
He will renew your strength,and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.
The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake, and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;
“Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you, “Restorer of ruined homesteads.”
via Divine Office.org.
It seems like the Lord is exhorting people to “do something.” Typically when we approach the Lenten season, we Catholics seek to “give up” something. A majority give up “fun” things like chocolate, extra TV, or some other sensual desire. But there is also a trend to take Lent more seriously. Rather than “give up” something that you’re going to take up again anyway once Lent is over, some seek to actually use Lent to shed sinful actions, to get rid of “character defects;” in other words, to finish Lent a better, more holier person than when you started it. This is what I’ve been suggesting ever since I started this blog.
One way to accomplish this is to “do something,” or “to take up something,” rather than “give up,” (unless you intend to “give it up” forever. Lent is a good time to abandon sinful practices). You have all the extra graces flowing about, your actions in concert with millions of other Christians who are trying to accomplish the same thing.
The Lord, in speaking to Isaiah, seem to be recommending this “do something” approach. He is suggesting forms of social action and justice. That is, to “do something” to make the world a better place. Read over the passage and examine each line and think about how you can do it. Do not necessarily interpret the line literally, a symbolic take on it might be sufficient. Although literal is OK, too, if you can actually do it!
This passage from Isaiah connects with another passage from the Gospel that is very similar:
Matthew 25: 31-40
“But when the Son of man will have arrived in his majesty, and all the Angels with him, then he will sit upon the seat of his majesty.
And all the nations shall be gathered together before him. And he shall separate them from one another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
And he shall station the sheep, indeed, on his right, but the goats on his left.
Then the King shall say to those who will be on his right: ‘Come, you blessed of my Father. Possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in; naked, and you covered me; sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me.’
Then the just will answer him, saying: ‘Lord, when have we see you hungry, and fed you; thirsty, and given you drink? And when have we seen you a stranger, and taken you in? Or naked, and covered you? Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and visit to you?’
And in response, the King shall say to them, ‘Amen I say to you, whenever you did this for one of these, the least of my brothers, you did it for me.’”
Look up that passage in your Bible to read the rest of that section (verses 41-46) to see what happens to those who didn’t “do one of these for the least…”
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