Saturday after Ash Wednesday – First Reading

Commentary on Isaiah 58:9-14

The Scripture lessons as we enter the Lenten season could hardly be clearer. Lent is not just a time for focusing on ourselves by giving up things and perhaps even feeling smug about it. It is a time to look beyond ourselves and to find God there.

Earlier in the passage we read today, Isaiah comments on complaints being made by people that, though they are fasting, God is not taking any notice. The reason, says Isaiah, is because while they are virtuously fasting, they continue to exploit their workers and get involved in fights and quarrels.

If we call on the Lord for help, he will hear us, but he does have expectations of us. We must be rid of any form of oppression, false accusations or malicious speech. We need to share our bread with the hungry and console the afflicted. When we do this:

…your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday…
you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water
whose waters never fail.

There is a further call to spend the Lord’s day in a more reverent manner. It is a time to refrain as far as possible from our daily concerns, and make it more a day for quiet reflection and a time to remember God’s gifts to us:

…then you shall take delight in the Lord…

Lent, then, is really a time for us to reflect on the meaning and direction of our lives and to consider what changes are necessary, not just at this time, but for the year ahead.

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