ISAIAH 58

Lent 4 ~ Only on the Hungry

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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;  ~  Isaiah 58:10

          A project of more than 2 years goes into its final days and I’m ready for it to end. I think I’ve given my all and that makes me very happy indeed. The relief is great too – suddenly I seem to have a lot more cheer and energy for home chores and cooking.

          Today, those verses from Isaiah come to raise my heart to hope once more. Basking in its warmth, my eyes trace the last verses over and over.

          Presently though, I sense a tiny shifting and an unseen finger gently pushes the first verse to the front.

…bestow your bread on the hungry…

          I sense someone watching me. Waiting to see if I’m paying attention. If I will be humble and contrite enough admit the truth.

Did you bestow your bread on the hungry?
 Or did you kill yourself trying to feed everyone?

          There’s no hiding from the truth, not when the question pierces so gently, so lovingly thrust.

Did you bestow your bread on the truly hungry? How often did you allow guilt to decide how much to do, how far to go?

When you were so tired, yet kept pushing on, how often was it for the truly hungry? How often was it because you kept hearing, You are lazy, that voice from the past? The past that has no place in this present?

How often did you try to feed everyone?

How often did you let the wolf in?

          I answer from my heart, Often enough.

          I hear my own voice tell me,

When you go back, feed, bestow your bread.

But only on the hungry.

 

Lent 3 ~ Take His Place

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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…   ~  Isaiah 58: 6

 

          One steaming Friday last year, my country suffered a severe setback. Angry and upset, I realised the top federal prosecutor needed all the prayers he could get. So, I hastened to my Friday Devotions. In the silence of the church, I begged God for help for this brave and earnest man, surrounded by enemies, yet fighting to uphold justice and mercy.

          God’s reply to me then was,

And My spirit continues in your midst;
do not fear!

          A few short weeks ago, this prosecutor shook the country by an act of great valour. As a result of what he did, innocent men accused of a wrong they didn’t commit walked free this week. In these tumultuous times, that single act of courage fed many faltering spirits with the food of heaven. By the courage to do what was right, this wise man led the way.

          In his own way, he showed us all that true courage is never more needed than when we are most afraid.

          Today, another Friday a year on, I return home at night to dismal news: the prosecutor has just handed in his resignation. While a part of me falls into immediate sadness, I don’t allow it to besmirch his going, for he had given his all. He was truly a luminary great. A true follower of our humble and brave Christ, he never allowed fear to manacle him. Despite great and relentless suffering, he had taken the mission of Christ into the highest chambers.

          Tracing my heart over the words of today’s readings,

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;

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn   ~  Isaiah 58: 6, 8

         I see the verses which speak to this good man’s mission, hidden within the office he was elected to.  He had literally set prisoners bound unjustly free. In his brief tenure, he had broken yokes which had emboldened the corrupt and incarcerated the innocent.

          Now, it was indeed time for him to move on.

          And for others to take his place. To carry on the salvific mission of Jesus.

Releasing those bound unjustly,
Untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
Breaking every yoke

          So that God’s promise for this soldier of Christ shall be for us too,

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 5 ~ Honour of the Sabbath

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On keeping the Sabbath holy:

If you honor it by not following your ways,
seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice…   ~   Isaiah 58: 13

          The instruction continues. I feel as if I am seeing things for the first time. I feel as if I am new to the faith, not the cradle Catholic I thought I was. Before this, my eyes were opened to a new way of fasting.

          Now, it is how the Lord wants me to celebrate and live His Sabbath.

 

 

 

Lent 3 ~ The Fast of Consoling

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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.   ~   Isaiah 58: 6 – 7

          I must have read these verses many times before but not seen them – until today. Today, still clueless on how to order my Lent this year, my answer comes:

Fast

Not in the way I envisioned it but to fast as the Lord wills it for me.

          Yet, something in Isaiah’s verses puzzle me. Why are they set that way?

          Releasing those bound unjustly comes before untying the thongs of the yoke;

Setting free the oppressed, comes before breaking every yoke;

How do you release those bound? You untie the thongs of the yoke. How do you set free the oppressed? Break the yoke that imprisons them. To my mind, it would have made more sense to reverse the order:

Untie the thongs of the yoke to release those bound unjustly.

Break every yoke to set free the oppressed

          The call to action, followed by the objective, the effect.

          And yet, it isn’t ordered that way.

          But why does the order even matter to me? Something niggles at me and refuses to go away.

          Slowly and quietly, a tiny vine uncurls its tendril in my mind.

That is the order of consoling.

          My Lent this year is to battle hidden in the Heart of Jesus, each day, answering the call to console Him – for His sorrow over those bound unjustly, freeing the oppressed, sheltering them, the homeless, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, despising not my own even as I busy myself with these calls. To console Him each and every day as He calls me to. To console Him in prayer, in willful silence carved out of my busy days, in uniting my small sufferings to His. Even as each one of those consolations becomes increasingly difficult for me as the winds make wild their feral tempests, trying to drag me into the confusion that encircles our days now, nothing must withhold me from the hidden offering.

          For this is the fast my Jesus asks of me this year. Console Me for the suffering of this world. On a Friday, when I’ve set aside my Fridays of this year for consoling Jesus, I receive the understanding of why Isaiah’s verses are ordered in the way they are.

I must focus on the consoling,

not on the fighting and slaying.

          For it is only when I console my wounded Saviour, that thongs are untied, and yokes broken.