This morning, on the second day of the Great Fast, I read in the prophecy of Micah:
What should I bring before the Lord
when I come to bow before God on high?
Should I come before him with burnt offerings,
with year-old calves?
Would the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams
or with ten thousand streams of oil?
Should I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the child of my body for my own sin?
He has shown thee, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of thee,
but to do justly and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with thy God?
This passage comes up today as I am meditating on how to live the Fast: Aside from eating differently and praying more, how shall we live transformatively? What shall we offer? The prophet rightly changes the focus from merely formal acts of fasting to works of repentance and love.
His words remind me of a poem by Kenji Miyazawa (1896–1933).
Amenimo Makezu (Unbeaten by Rain)
by Kenji Miyazawa
Unbeaten by rain
Unbeaten by wind
Unbowed by the snow and the summer heat
Strong in body
Free from greed
Without any anger
With a handful of brown rice a day
Miso and a small amount of vegetables suffice
Consider yourself last, always put others first
Understand from your observation and experience
Never lose sight of these things
In the shadows of the pine groves in the fields
Live modestly under a thatched roof
In the East, if there is a sick child
Go there and take care of him
In the West, if there is an exhausted mother
Go there and relieve her of her burden
In the South, if there is a man near death
Go there and comfort him, tell him “Don’t be afraid”
In the North, if there is an argument and a legal dispute
Go there and persuade them it’s not worth it
In a drought, shed tears
In a cold summer, carry on
Even with a sense of loss
Being called a fool
Being neither praised nor a burden
Such a person I want to be
Translation © 2011 by Catherine Iwata, Fredrich Ulrich, Orlagh O’Reilly, Helen Bartos, Minaeri Park, Mokmi Park, Helen Bartos, Sophie Sampson, Kotomi Okbo, Eva Tuunanen, Alessanra Lauria, Sophie Sampson, Miwa Block, Nancy O’Reilly, Jasmina Vico & Yasuko Akiyama. I saved it from unbeatenbyrain.com which sadly is no longer online.