On Fasting

Mark 2: 18-22
Heb 5:1-10 / Psa 110

…no one pours new wine into old wineskins.
(Mark 2:22)

Everything at its time and place,
And with new eyes must life be viewed.
We can’t go back to our old ways
Now that our life has been renewed.

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. People came and asked Jesus, “Why is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but yours do not?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. “No one sews a patch of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:18-22)


Fasting during the time of our Lord was associated with mourning, or for repentance of sins and/or supplication, as in the case of King David who pleaded for the life of his illegitimate son with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:16). But contrary to the belief of the Pharisees and the followers of John the Baptist, Jesus did fast (Luke 4:2), and even more than their prescribed period; He fasted for 40 days. And unlike the Pharisees who fasted for show, He did it in secret, going to the desert by Himself. And for a different purpose: to prepare Himself for His ministry.

The lesson that Jesus taught the Jews then still applies to the present generation: that all things must be applicable to or compatible with the present need. Mourning during a wedding is as incongruous as patching a tattered garment with a new cloth, or filling an old wineskin with new wine that will expand and burst it. Practices of the past are no longer appropriate or relevant to modern circumstances or situations.

It has become a traditional practice for many Christians to fast during the time of Lent, especially on Good Friday, to be in communion with our Lord Jesus in His crucifixion. This was my intention on one such occasion, but the Lord provided a better alternative when a friend called to ask for blood donation. I decided to forego the fasting so that I could donate an ounce of life, and in the process felt even closer in imitating the Lord, Who was the first to shed blood (on the cross) for our salvation.

The difference between wisdom and folly is the ability to see what is appropriate, what fits where and when. Our Lord is telling us that observing traditional forms of worship like receiving the sacraments or praying novenas, tithing, or fasting would all be exercises in futility if we do not practice charity and kindness to the poor, or at least keep in mind those in distress or in need. For this, fasting can also come in other forms, not only in refraining from food. When the floodwaters of Davao river threatened the lives and properties of residents in its riverbanks yesterday (Sunday), my wife suggested that we forego our plan to see a long-awaited movie (Les Miserables). It was a small sacrifice to offer as a form of supplication for God’s protection. Going without material things or comforts do not make us holy, but they certainly help make us persevere in our prayer for those who need it.

Father God, it is not our sacrifices that are pleasing to You, but our obedience to Your covenant of love. Help us Lord to imitate our Savior Jesus, Who showed us the importance of discipline, and the example of complete obedience to Your will. Amen.

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