Isaiah in chapter 58 calls us to live a fast of love, of justice, of restoring community.
The real fast is not giving up something, or offering sacrifices. The real fast is opening places in our hearts and in our communities.
Fasting from food and drink can be a purifying process, but not a process for oneself alone. It should open us to compassion.
Lanza del Vasto, called “Shantidas” –the Servant of Peace by Gandhi – wrote in Principles and Precepts of a Return to the Obvious:
Whoever fasts becomes transparent.
Others become transparent to him.
Their suffering enters him
and he is defenseless against it.
So take care to stop up your sense by eating well
if you don’t want to be devoured by charity.
When we open our hearts, we feel the pains of others and feel called to respond – putting away the yoke of oppression, finger-pointing, and malicious speech (Isaiah 58:9).
In this way we can be instruments of God, breach menders, restorers of broken relationships.
In calling Levi (Luke 5: 27-32), Jesus showed a way of restoring broken relationships – calling a despised tax collector as a disciple and eating with him and other sinners.
There are so many breaches around us – between rich and poor, between political partisans of different ideologies, between different groups in the church or in organizations, between nations and within nations.
It is so easy to just accept these breaches. But when we open ourselves – by fasting or in other ways – we see that we are all incomplete, wounded, in need of reconciliation.
Jesus is the great breach-mender. We are called to do what we can to mend the breaches still here in the world – recognizing in the other, the sinner and the poor or marginalized another wounded person in need of love, in need of acceptance, in need of community.