“Why do we fast, and you do not see it?” (Isaiah 58:3)

Well-known film director Woody Allen once quipped that 90 percent of success is just showing up. Well, if that’s the case, then the other 10 percent must be absolutely crucial! There are many people who “just show up”—maybe at work, with their families, or in their neighbor­hoods—but don’t go much further, and the results are evident.

Think about the Israelites in today’s first reading. “Why do we fast, and you do not see it?” they asked the Lord. “Why do we afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?” (Isaiah 58:3). They had met God’s requirements by deny­ing themselves, so they wondered why he hadn’t done his part and answered their requests. After all, they “showed up,” didn’t they? The answer was that something was missing from their sacrifice—their hearts! Just maybe it wasn’t God but Israel who needed to come around to a new way of thinking.

Whenever we set out to prac­tice self-denial, it’s natural to want to focus on ourselves. But fasting is really an invitation to put off self-concerns and personal pursuits, and to begin to pursue justice and peace. The kind of fasting the prophet advised is more than giving up food, drink, or pleasure. When we go out and serve others, we are fasting from “self” in the truest sense. We start to see that our comfort doesn’t matter so much, and we become hungry— hungry to do the will of God!

We typically don’t have far to go to find this kind of food. There are hundreds of ways we can give— and receive—a blessing. At home, we can take more time to listen to what family members are saying and to respond with compassion and sincerity. At work, we can put rela­tionships ahead of profit or reach out to a co-worker who is struggling. When we see a homeless person, we can offer them encouragement as well as practical help. Ask the Lord how you can make a difference. He wants you to step out and offer your gifts and talents—and as you do, he will also transform you into his image!

“Holy Spirit, I choose to join you in bringing the good news to those who are hurting. May I bring them your light of compassion and share with them the power of your gospel!”

Psalm 51:3-6,18-19; Matthew 9:14-15