Friday after Ash Wednesday
1st Reading: Is 58:1–9a*
Thus says the Lord Yahweh:
Cry out aloud for all you are worth;
raise your voice like a trumpet blast;
tell my people of their offenses,
Jacob’s family of their sins.
Is it true that they seek me
day after day, longing to know my ways,
as a people that does what is right
and has not forsaken the word of its God?
They want to know the just laws
and not to drift away from their God.
“Why are we fasting,” they complain,
“and you do not even see it?
We are doing penance and you never notice it.”
Look, on your fast days you push your trade
and you oppress your laborers.
Yes, you fast but end up quarreling,
striking each other with wicked blows.
Fasting as you do
will not make your voice heard on high.
Is that the kind of fast that pleases me,
just a day to humble oneself?
Is fasting merely bowing down one’s head,
and making use of sackcloth and ashes?
Would you call that fasting,
a day acceptable to Yahweh?
See the fast that pleases me:
breaking the fetters of injustice
and unfastening the thongs of the yoke,
setting the oppressed free
and breaking every yoke.
Fast by sharing your food with the hungry,
bring to your house the homeless,
clothe the one you see naked
and do not turn away from your own kin.
Then will your light break forth as the dawn
and your healing come in a flash.
Your righteousness will be your vanguard,
the Glory of Yahweh your rearguard.
Then you will call and Yahweh will answer,
you will cry and he will say, I am here.
Gospel: Mt 9:14–15
The disciples of John came to Jesus with the question, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not your disciples?”
Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? Time will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, then they will fast.”
In the olden days, many preachers gave more sermons about hell than about heaven. It was probably because it was easy to manipulate people through fear; and the mythology of hell left nothing to the imagination. Misery has some way of appearing more real than joy, and there are many, even today, who prefer to emphasize it; it makes their message sound more real, more urgent, more “hands-on.” There can even be a kind of ghoulish interest in it. But Christians have to proclaim not only the death but the resurrection of Jesus.
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