18 February 2021

Friday after Ash Wednesday: Fasting

At that time: the disciples of John came to Jesus, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

- St. Matthew 9:14-15

Lent is like athletic training for the soul. We’re encouraged to take up three practices which are as essential for spiritual health as are regular physical exercise and healthy diet for an athlete; namely, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Today, consider fasting.

The voluntary giving up of things we may legitimately enjoy can be an expression of our love for God, and it can strengthen our wills and spiritual muscles. This helps us to resist the lures and lies of Satan, when he tempts us to make choices that we know to be sinful.

Fasting may be of many kinds, such as refraining from food or drink, or reducing the time we spend in front of the television or on our phones. It’s not that those things are bad in and of themselves, but we voluntarily fast from them so that we can become spiritually stronger in the face of temptations which may well be bad for us.

The prophet Isaiah reminds us of the wrong kind of fasting. “Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.” (Is. 58:4)

Let’s not forget what we’re really supposed to be fasting from, which is anything that is not pleasing to God, anything which gives a bad example to others, anything which stops us from doing God’s will.