Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking off every yoke?
Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry,
bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own flesh?
True Charity is more than almsgiving.
In a recent homily Pope Francis cautioned against formal observances and rituals that are not accompanied by an interior change of heart. The Holy Father cautioned that “Christianity is not a repository of formal observances for people who put on a hypocritical good appearance to conceal their hearts empty of charity.”
Christianity, he continued, “is showing the flesh of Jesus who bends down without shame in front of whoever is suffering.” Not like the Pharisees who transformed religious life into an ethic. The Holy Father added, “These hypocritical people are good persons. They do all they should do. They seem good. But they are ethicists without goodness because they have lost the sense of belonging to a people! Our Lord gives us salvation through belonging to a people.”
True charity or fasting, the Pope said, means breaking the chains of evil, freeing the oppressed, sharing our bread with the hungry, opening our houses to the homeless and clothing the naked, adding “This is the charity that our Lord wants, charity that is concerned about the life of our brother.”
When giving alms, the Pope suggested, “Do I drop the coin without touching the hand of the beggar? And if, by chance, I do touch it do I immediately withdraw it?” Can I look into the beggar’s eyes and see Jesus?
We must guard against empty ritual, keeping in mind that “It is the love of Christ that motivates us,” (2 Cor 5:14) and not merely a sense of duty or obligation.