Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Reflection by Demetrio Alvero, EMM Director of Operations
Lent is traditionally described as lasting for 40 days, in commemoration of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert before beginning his public ministry, according to the Gospels. But, is that all? This verse reminds us that there is more to Lent than a simple remembrance. These verses from Isaiah resonate with meaning for our Lenten journey, and they remind us of what more we are asked to do.
Commentaries have interpreted Isaiah 58:6 as: if you want to fast the way that pleases Me, begin with getting right with your brothers and sisters. Stop oppressing others and reach out to help others. Getting right with God begins by stopping the evil we do towards others. Getting right with God means loving our neighbors, and interpreting “neighbor” in an expansive way. By trying to love as God loves, however imperfectly, we get closer to the vision of the Prophet Isaiah and verses 58:6-12, which we will traverse through the daily devotions this Lenten season.
I take this interpretation as my starting point. I reflect on my experience during my lifetime working with refugees. Seeing first-hand lives uprooted by war, genocide, and oppression… it can seem as if the world is senseless. Yet in the midst of devastation, fear, and hardship, those individuals I have met who fled their homes into an uncertain future have shown incredible resilience and strength. By welcoming and knowing them, my life has been touched, transformed. These brave men and women reminded me of God’s abiding presence, and of my calling to end suffering and extend loving welcome.
In this Lenten season, we can pray for an end to the evil we do to others. And I would urge you to join others that embrace the ministries of welcome across this country, who get it right by loving and welcoming their newest neighbors.
Questions for reflection:
- How is God speaking to you through Isaiah 58:6 and today’s devotion?
- How might God be speaking to displaced people seeking safety in Isaiah 58:6?
- What is God saying to the Church in Isaiah 58:6?
Demetrio Alvero is presently the Director of Operations for Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM). He has been with EMM since 2005 and has over worked for over 40 years of refugee and migrant work experience in the United States and various countries. He has worked with the International Rescue Committee and the International Organization for Migration in countries as diverse as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Guatemala, and Kenya.
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Refugee resettlement is humanitarian, life-saving, and community-building work. For Episcopal Migration Ministries, it is a powerful way that we live out our Baptismal Covenant to respect the dignity of every human being and to love our neighbors.
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