It’s the economy, stupid!
This kept them from being distracted by all sorts of issues that, while important, might keep them from focusing on the most important issue.
Today’s first reading (Isaiah 58:1-9a) takes a somewhat similar tack, albeit in matters infinitely more important than politics.
The people knew they needed to get right with God and they tried all the usual pious actions and devotions without success (much as we too often do).
The Lord’s response is clear.
It’s sin, stupid.
Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just
and not abandoned the law of their God;
They ask me to declare what is due them,
pleased to gain access to God.
“Why do we fast, and you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”
Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.
The answer is also clear: repentance, grace, reform, and right action.
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed...
By the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, may we truly turn away from sin and be focused on true repentance and true charity.