Today's readings address what would have been the traditional practice of fasting on Fridays. Traditionally, Fridays were a day of penance, a day of fasting for Christians in remembrance of thar great Friday on which Jesus gave his life on the cross for our salvation.
Fridays remain for us a day of penance, but now for those who are 14 and older the minimum requirement is that we abstain from meat. There is of course nothing preventing us from maintaining the more ancient tradition of fasting.
The first reading today, poses only one question. To what end?
The prophet Isiaiah is not condemning fasting per se he is condemning the result, the accompanying behavior.
Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers. Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw.
The fasting is empty in the worst way if you then take it out on everyone around you. As the Ash Wednesday gospel from Mt. 6 reminded us, it is possible for us to do good things like almsgiving, prayer, and fasting for the wrong reason. And a good thing done for the wrong reason looses it merit. It becomes an empty gesture.
Today I would encourage you to consider taking the extra step, if your health allows it. At least consider reducing by half the amount of food you consume. Offer your sacrifice, remembering the sacrifice of Jesus. Allow your body to experience physical hunger and recall your spiritual hunger.