Homily (Reflection) for Friday after Ash Wednesday (12th February, 2016) on the Gospel

Is 58:1-9;
Ps 50:3-6.18-19. (R. v.19);
Matt 9:14-15.

Topic: Why do we... fast?

John’s disciples came to Jesus in today’s gospel with this question, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” (Matt 9:14).

As we enter the third day of Lent, it is important to be very careful lest one might work for an unintended employer. John disciples’ question shows among other things their understanding of fasting. They see it as a mere fulfilment of the Law. Hence probably they wanted Jesus to command His disciples to fast.

Although we have I suppose rightly noted that fasting is one of the pillars of Lent but why do we actually fast? One’s body is his or her greatest enemy and as a result there is need for constant battle to win this enemy. Hence, in his first letter to the Corinthians Saint Paul writes, “I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1Cor 9:27). He also writes in his letter to the Romans “if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live” (Rom 8:13).

Jesus warns us repeatedly that the gate that leads to life is narrow, cf. Matt 7:13. Maybe that is why the Psalmist made his body to become gaunt through fasting, cf. Ps 109:24.

We ought to fast for our own spiritual good and neither because we are told to nor just fast because others are fasting. Jesus fasted forty days and nights in the wilderness. We ought to follow in His footsteps if we want to be glorified with Him, cf. Rom 8:17; Jn 14:6.

We must remember how seriously Jesus condemns these Pharisees who fasted with John’s disciples, Matt 23:25, 27. If anyone wishes to fast meritoriously before God he or she must avoid the mistakes of the Pharisees, cf. Matt 6:16-17. We fast to put a smile on someone’s face without trumpeting.

Bible Reading: Rom 7:14-25.

Thought for today: Fast meritoriously before God.

Let us pray: Lord, help us in our fight against our greatest enemy – Amen.

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