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 Allison Duvall
As I reflect on this past week’s daily devotions, I am struck by the question with which Connor Travis began yesterday’s reflection: “When we fast – or perhaps more simply, when we pray – do we position ourselves to be seen and heard or to see and hear?” Are our prayers and actions self-centering or other-centering?
In the Ash Wednesday liturgy, the Gospel reading appointed is Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21. Jesus’ teaching in this passage resonates with the verse from Isaiah that we have been meditating upon during this week’s devotions: “Is not this the fast that I choose…?” we hear in Isaiah. Similarly, if we listen to Matthew’s Jesus, we must consider: What is the nature of our Lenten fast? Are we positioning ourselves to be seen and heard or to see and hear?
Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them…whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret…
Whenever you fast, do not look dismal like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting…When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 paraphrased)
As we conclude this week and prepare for the first Sunday in Lent, I am pondering my own posture of fasting this Lent. I pray that my fast may be taking on the act of holy listening, of quieting the noise all around us, of positioning myself to see and hear, with God’s help. Amen.
Questions for reflection:
- How might you position yourself so that you may see and hear what God is saying?
- How might you position yourself so that you may see and hear what God’s children – refugees, asylum seekers, migrants – are saying?
- How might the Church see and hear what God and God’s children – refugees, asylum seekers, migrants – are saying?
Allison Duvall is EMM’s Manager for Church Relations & Engagement. Her work focuses on networking, educating, and inspiring Episcopalians to ministries of welcome and advocacy for their newest neighbors. She resides with her husband in the Diocese of Lexington (Kentucky).
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