if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
Reflection by The Rt. Rev. Michael Hunn
For those who have been practicing the Christian faith for years or decades, the Lenten seasons can kind of blend together. Perhaps for years at a time Lent has meant the same spiritual discipline like giving up chocolate or red wine or coffee. Or maybe after having “given things up” for a few years we switched to “taking on new disciplines” for a while and tried new prayer practices, book groups, or even spiritual direction. (If you haven’t tried those, I can highly recommend them all!)
One risk of Lent for those who practice it over a lifetime is that it can become just a personal spiritual exercise that we experience for 40 days and then go back to normal until next year.
Whether this approaching Holy Week is a time for you to come out of your Lenten fasting or whether it is a time when your focus is on how to emerge from the Covid wilderness, let the 58th chapter of Isaiah be a powerful reminder.
The prophet Isaiah reminds us that the religious devotion and spiritual practice that God desires for us is not merely for our self-improvement. Neither is it to work off some debt in our relationship with God. The fasting and self-denial which God desires must be connected with the needs of our neighbors.
Fasting isn’t merely about giving up a meal – it is about changing the way the world works so that all may eat and so that all people have what is necessary to love life and to live abundantly. Fasting is about becoming aware of the privilege in our lives. It is about consciously setting that privilege aside or making room for the needs of others instead of focusing on ourselves.
Isaiah reminds us that we, who call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ, are called to engage the unjust systems of this world and to bring about the sort of loving neighborliness that Jesus died and rose again to bring into this world.
This Easter, let us not just celebrate the end of the fasting. Let us commit to work for those in need, the vulnerable, the hungry, those who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19, the children who have fallen behind in their schoolwork.
Out of love for our neighbor, and in acknowledgment of God’s love for us, let us celebrate by knitting together that beloved community in which every life is treasured, and every mouth is fed; a world where justice rolls down like a raging river and every heart is loved. And let that be what it means for us to be church.
Michael B. Hunn is the Bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande. A writer, preacher and public speaker, filmmaker and host of the podcast The Simply Christian Life, his work is on Facebook, YouTube and at dioceserg.org. He lives with his family in a permaculture orchard outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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