St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr
Dear Family of Mary!
When I was thinking about this homily yesterday, I wasn’t going to talk about it or about fasting because I felt that you know more about fasting than I do. But, four questions raised their head during the day. And I thought I would share these with you. And you probably already know the answer to them, but it is good to remind ourselves.
First – Did Jesus really teach about fasting? Did He ask us to fast?
And the answer to that is of course, yes, He does instruct us! Especially in Matthew, Chapter 9, He says: “…when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast on that day.” And He presumes His followers will fast, in the Sermon on the Mount, when He teaches very clearly, “when you fast…”, He says…not “If you fast…” And He goes on to say, “Anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to be fasting before others. Your Father who sees in secret, will reward you.”
The second question that came up was: When did fasting on certain days originate?
You know Our Lady here asks us to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. But it is found as early as the first century, in the teaching of the Twelve Apostles. And in that we read, “Christ commanded us to fast on Wednesday and Friday”. And the saints explain that we fast on Wednesdays because on this day Our Lord was betrayed. And we fast on Friday because on this day He suffered death for our salvation.
The third question that hit me was: What is the purpose of fasting?
I suppose we can say that although fasting has many health benefits, the primary aim of fasting is to make us conscious of our dependence on God. We voluntarily experience physical hunger in order to become aware of our true spiritual hunger. Another reason we fast is to subdue our passions and our self-will. The saints tell us there is not way that we can control our urges for pleasure, money or power, if we cannot control our stomach. Fasting is the first way to self-control. And our self-will is cut off by being obedient to the Church and Her rules.
And the fourth and the final one is: Is fasting only a matter of diet?
And the answer to that is clearly no! It is moral as well as physical. True fasting is to be converted in heart and in will. It is to return to God. To come home like the Prodigal Son, to our Father’s house. In the words of St. John Christendom: It means abstinence on only from food but from sins. He says that the fast should be kept not only by the mouth, but also by the eye, the ear, the feet, the hands, and all members of the body. The eye must abstain from impure sights, the ear from malicious gossip, the hands from acts of injustice. And St. Basil goes on to that it is useless, absolutely useless, he says, to fast from food and yet indulge in criticism of others and slander of others. In the end there is a great phrase, “You do not eat meat, and devour your brother…”
Some great reasons for us to fast.
In Jesus, Mary and Joseph!
©Mary TV 2020