Today’s Lenten meditation from The Word Among Us is taken from Isaiah 58:6:
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish. (Isaiah 58:6)
Of the three practices that we focus on in Lent—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—it’s the latter that we can find the most challenging. While many of us do give to the needy during Lent, it can be harder to find opportunities to serve the poor in person.
Often we begin Lent with a sincere desire to help the poor, but somehow the whole season gets away from us before we are able to find a way to serve. With today being just the third day of Lent, we still have plenty of time to make a concrete decision about what we will do!
Are you not sure where to start? Maybe a call to your parish office would be a good first step. Ask about opportunities to help with a parish clothing drive, a food pantry, or the local St. Vincent de Paul Society. More than simply giving a donation—which is always good—look for opportunities that bring you into direct contact with those less fortunate than you. That’s when your heart changes—when you look into the eyes of those you are serving and recognize them as your brothers and sisters.
If you don’t find something at first, keep looking. Check your diocesan newspaper or visit the local charities in your area. Catholic newspapers often have listings of area charities that are looking for volunteers. Who knows? Maybe you can even turn this into a permanent thing once Lent is over. After all, Jesus reminds us that the poor we will always have with us, not just during Lent!
Today’s passage from Isaiah is a dramatic reminder that Jesus is looking at the motives of our hearts more than just our outward actions. As much as he loves it when we fast, he is also looking for people who are seeking to set the oppressed free, share their bread with the hungry, shelter the homeless, and clothe the naked (Isaiah 58:6-7). What’s more, if we do this, God promises: “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall be quickly healed… . You shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!” (58:8-9).
“Jesus, I want to serve you in the poor and needy this Lent. Help me find a practical way to meet you as I reach out to those less fortunate in my community.”
Psalm 51:3-6, 18-19; Matthew 9:14-15