Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Heart of the Fast: Bible Comment on Zechariah 7 with poem by Robert Herrick, To Keep A True Lent

Daily Readings
Sirach 15, II Kings 10, Zechariah 7, Jeremiah 35

Daily Text: Zechariah 7

Heart of the Fast
Bethel had been a traditional center of religious life in Israel both before and after the divided monarchy. Obviously, the leadership there is still concerned. There is a question, a pertinent one. We have fasted for almost seventy years mourning the loss of Jerusalem and the temple. Should we continue this ritual fast since Jerusalem and the temple are being rebuilt? Priest and prophet are being addressed and we are reading a response from one of the prophets, Haggai may well be one other addressed. Zechariah 7 turns out to be an integrated historical response to that question [528:296]. While the prophets had called prior to the exile for true repentance, the people had responded with a ritual fast, ignoring its real requirements. So, suggests Zechariah, you were fasting to please yourselves much as you eat to please yourselves! True justice and mercy were completely ignored. Kindness? What’s that? Avoid oppression? Who me? The heart of the fast was never observed. The people plugged their ears and turned a cold and stubborn shoulder toward YHWH and the result had been the wrath of God.. He scattered them throughout the nations, travel ceased, the land was left desolate, indeed the people ‘despised the pleasant land, having no faith in YHWH’s promise’ [Ps. 106:24].

To Keep A True Lent
Robert Herrick

Is this a Fast, to keep
The larder lean,
And clean
From fat of veals and sheep?

Is it to quit the dish
Of flesh, yet still
To fill
The platter high with fish?

Is it to fast an hour,
Or ragg’d to go,
Or show
A downcast look and sour?

No: ‘tis a Fast to dole
Thy sheaf of wheat
And meat,
Unto the hungry soul.

It is to fast from strife,
From old debate
And hate;
To circumcise thy life.

To show a heart grief-rent;
To starve thy sin,
Not bin:
And that’s to keep thy Lent.

Collect for the Day
God of infinite mercy and forgiveness, by the cross and resurrection of Jesus your Son, wash away our sins and deliver us from our infirmities of body and spirit, that we may live with him his risen life, to the praise and glory of your holy name.

[476:843:103 Psalm prayer]


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