SATURDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY
If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God; be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all day long. Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my cry of supplication.
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up, left everything, and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
In the first reading, Isaiah assures God's people that if they attend to the needs of those around them, feeding the hungry and satisfying the needs of the afflicted, their light will shine in the darkness. The gospel shows an example of that. Jesus eats and drinks with sinners to call them to repentance and righteousness with him. He is the physician to those most in need of mercy: the sick and the lost.
The Pharisees keep their distance from the sinners. You can imagine their disgust as they complain to Jesus about what he is doing. But refusing to accompany them or call them higher will not lead to a change of heart but will only keep them in their place. Jesus draws near to them and calls them to himself.
God wants us to know his heart for the poor, the hungry, those in need, and those far away from him. The words of the prophet, Isaiah, call us to feed the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted. The most needy are those who are far from God.
This Lent may our fasting remind us of those who are hungry for God, our alms provide for those who are afflicted, and our prayers go to poor sinners who are in need of repentance.