Today is the first Friday in Lent and not eating meat on Friday seems to be one aspect of Lent we are best known for. What few Catholics realize is that we are still supposed to abstain from meat in Friday every week of the year, or substitute some other penitential practice.. That last part seems to have gotten lost in the minds of most Catholics. All we heard was "outside of lent you can now eat meat on Friday." Another example of how we all have conscious and unconscious selective hearing.
The point of the reading from Isaiah today is that none of these acts mean anything in isolation. They must be linked to a larger life committed to not simply loving God in the abstract but showing that love through our care of the one creature made in God's image and likeness.
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Here Isaiah is not suggesting that actual fasting be abolished in favor of the above, but reminding us that more is required.
With the economy being what it is, the local outreach centers, food pantries, clothing closets are all in need of assistance. Lent is the perfect time for us to look right in our own neighborhood and ask how we can help. Perhaps this weekend or next is the time to clean out the closets. Throw away the junk, and give away those clothes that are still good but you never wear anyway.