No one bats an eyelash when one hears of radical diets that shun the intake of, for example, protein, sweets, carbs, etc. We're fairly happy to admit that we don't really need those types of (usually delightful) food too much -- that there is something more important than enjoying them. But bring up the word fasting, apart from a medical context, and one instinctive reaction is, Huh? Fr. Bill today talked about a balance between feasting and fasting (catchy way of putting it). One is appreciated more if it is balanced with the other. Each is done right, done better, in the proper perspective.
Apart from keeping a balance between the two, Isaiah conveys this reminder from God: be consistent. Why do we fast? It is not to win admiration, nor to get paid for my fast. To be heard by God, a fast as prayer. Why should it ever be necessary? Well, it probably isn't, but it is consistent with a sincere and heartfelt prayer. It is a penitential prayer that is incarnated -- made flesh with the physical act of fasting. This is consistent because we are incarnate beings. To please God. Why is that important? Because apart from being Creator, he is our Father. He was delighted in our creation and is delighted when we imitate him. With sincere fasting, a heartfelt and incarnate prayer, we imitate his love when we offer him our love. He doesn't need it, but it is what we were made for, to love. As Isaiah continues to relate to us, to fast consistently, with love, means these (Is 58:1-9):
to break unjust fetters
undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and break every yoke,
to share your bread with the hungry,
and shelter the homeless poor,
to clothe the man you see to be naked
and not turn from your own kin?
Then will your light shine like the dawn
and your wound be quickly healed over.
Your integrity will go before you
and the glory of the Lord behind you.
Cry, and the Lord will answer;
call, and he will say, ‘I am here.’