A Time for Fasting

Matthew 9: 14-15
Is 58: 1-9a/ Ps 51: 3-6ab, 18-19

The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then, they will fast.
(Matthew 9:15)

If we must go hungry for a day,
Remember Christ fasted for 40 days;
The ‘Bridegroom’ has been ‘taken away’
So why not fast a little today?

Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” (Matthew 9:14-15)

Reflection

Jesus was not disparaging this sacred tradition, because as we read in the Gospel of Matthew, He Himself fasted for forty days and nights before He embarked on His ministry (Mt.4:2). He was simply telling John’s disciples that it was not yet the appropriate time for fasting. Aside from spiritual preparation, fasting was usually practiced during a time of mourning, for the repentance of sins, for asking divine guidance or protection, or combined with prayers, to ask for healing or casting out evil spirits. At that time, Jesus was breaking bread with sinners and celebrating the deliverance of a new apostle, Matthew. It was certainly not the appropriate time.

We fast during Lent as a form of self-denial. Together with abstinence, this discipline of conquering the desire to eat develops our will power to resist the many lures that the devil employs to entrap us. But fasting should not be an end in itself. God does not encourage fasting solely for the purpose of discipline or self-denial. It is not a Biblical reason for fasting. God has a higher purpose for it.

The sacrifice involved in fasting is for the purpose of “afflicting one’s soul.” It is not merely inflicting one’s body with hunger, but conditioning one’s spirit to turn in prayer more intimately to the Provider of all things. Fasting must always occur with prayer. “You can pray without fasting, but you cannot fast without praying.” The deliberate abstention from food happens for a spiritual reason: to communicate with the Father on a higher plane. God said, “When you seek me with all your heart, you will find me” (Jer. 29:13,14). When we set aside the cravings of the body to concentrate on praying, we are seeking God with all our heart. And without sustenance, we weaken ourselves before the Lord in order to depend on His strength. To fast therefore is “to humble oneself before the Lord” (Ps.35:13)

During this season of Lent, let us go back to this fundamental Biblical practice, and be one with Christ Who humbled Himself for our salvation. Especially for those of us who are overweight, this is the best time to ask our Lord to give us the willpower to restrain our appetites – not only to lose weight, but to gain a deeper understanding of His cross.

Help me, O Lord to be able to sacrifice a little, by fasting and abstinence, as my offering to You during this Lenten season. Strengthen my will, I humbly pray. Amen.

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