In this reading, Isaiah proclaims the message of God. Here, the Lord addresses fasting. The people had been crying out that they fasted but God took no notice. They wanted to know why. God responds that their fasting was done in their own way, not in His. They wallowed in misery because of the fast instead of using their sacrifice to help others, the sort of fast that God desires. Here, the Lord instructs that if the people help others through their sacrifice, He shall be with them.
We often look at fasting and sacrifice as a burden that each of us must go through on his or her own; we don’t consider that giving of our time and talents to help others could be a way to fast. We think only of ourselves and what we are missing. Perhaps a better way to fast would be to give to others what they are missing, to use our fasts to help others. To please God, we should focus our fasts not just on ourselves, but also, and mostly, on others.