Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
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.
Isaiah 58.6-8, 10-11
A Spirituality of Resistance?
In Isaiah's vision of justice and sharing, the promise is '"you shall be like a watered garden ... whose waters never fail." It is our Lenten hope that the waters of the garden of the earth will never fail for any of God\'s creatures.
We can be part of a process of transformation, a light shining in the darkness. The promise of access to clean water for all the earth's people can seem far off. The walk towards water justice is long, just as is the walk to the well or pump in many places. The vision of justice Isaiah speaks of can come about through many of us taking small steps.
The prophet Isaiah makes the link between fasting and justice clear. While the hungry still need food and the homeless a roof, God's call is for justice not for perfectly formulated prayers or proof of complete self-control. It's a down-to-earth call for water, food, shelter and clothing.
Fasting is a valued spiritual discipline in many religious traditions. It develops a capacity to live with less and can open us up to share what we have with others. It can also help develop a spirituality of resistance.
Nelson Mandela in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom described how as he became more politically active he trained himself to make do with less food, so that if taken prisoner his body and spirit would be less easily broken or bribed by the need for food.
Lent gives us the opportunity to take up the challenge of practising a spirituality of resistance in our own contexts. To learn to be hungry and thirsty, physically and also metaphorically. Can we change our eating habits for one or two days a week and eat less meat during these seven weeks? Can we spend less on ourselves and share more? Can we use less water?
Jane Stranz (WCC)
Together we can make a difference
Fasting is not about success or failure but about learning. Did you already know that most water is not spent for drinking, cooking, gardening or flushing the toilet, but in the production of food and the many other products we consume? Were you aware that when you order a steak you are actually "eating" about 3000 litres of water which have flowed into the production of the meat - all too often in countries where people might not even have access to a minimum of safe drinking water?
- Think about how much water you consume indirectly every week and where it might come from. You'll find helpful information and a water footprint calculator on www.waterfootprint.org
- Build a "Virtual Water Cube" and then test people\'s knowledge maybe in front of the local supermarket or at school or church. How much water does it take to grow a kilo of rice, wheat, beef, chicken, milk, cotton?
- Are there people in your town or village suffering from a lack of access to water?
Links to further information:
Virtual water footprint www.waterfootprint.org
"Hunger through Choice" - Read about the traditions of fasting (in English)
Please note, fasting can be dangerous to your health and should not be undertaken without proper planning.