“Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Isaiah 58:6, 7
Lent is traditionally a time of fasting, abstinence from rich foods – used up, so as not to be a temptation over the next forty days, on Shrove Tuesday by making pancakes…
Last year, we fasted from meat, only eating it on the Sundays [which are feast days]. But fasting is not just – perhaps not primarily – about not eating, as God makes clear in Isaiah 58. Fasting is as much about what and how we eat, as about what and when we don’t eat.
I’m struck by the thought that whenever I buy and eat fairly-traded food, I am not only loosening the chains of injustice in a literal sense, but also eating with the producers and their families in a mystical sense. [In contrast, when I eat food produced through the exploitation of the workers, I sit down to eat with the fat cats who exploit them…] These people – who I will never meet – share their food with me – a humbling thought; we do wrong to take those who produce the food we eat for granted. And I, in turn, offer my food back to them, because the fair price paid for it allows them to put food on their table.
If you are wondering what to Give Up this Lent, why not consider giving up food produced in ways that exploit the producers, and the earth? As a decision, this might inconvenience you enough [less choice] to reflect further, to pray and to act for justice. You might also consider Giving Up eating on your own [as an individual or a family], and look for opportunities to invite others – especially the physically and/or spiritually hungry – to share your food with you.
“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken walls, Restorer of streets with Dwellings.” Isaiah 58:8-12
Lent fasting fair trade