There’s fasting and then there’s fasting! If fasting is going to be effective (and we should want to fast effectively) then we have to be motivated in the right way and know why we fast; we must have a good reason. In today’s Gospel (Matthew 9:14-15), the question of fasting arises. We can presume John’s disciples really want to understand what’s behind the lack of fasting from Jesus’ disciples. The Pharisees who are also fasting, but basing it on their tendency to judge and criticize, probably don’t want to learn but rather pass judgement on what they see as another rule broken. I think it’s safe to assume that they are not going to really understand or accept the bridegroom’s place in all of this and not only because they don’t accept Jesus as the Bridegroom.
In order for religious fasting to be efficacious, we need to accept and understand the end and see our fasting as a means to get there. How is the discipline and practice of fasting going to get a person closer to God (His Son) than to be with Him, body, blood, soul and divinity? We are not with our Lord in the same way as His apostles were, and so we fast, knowing that through our fasting, we might draw ever closer to Him.
The Pharisees saw Jesus’ practice and that of His apostles as an affront to the rules to which they adhered. But strict adherence didn’t bring them and it won’t bring us closer to Christ. That doesn't mean we should throw away the rules! On the contrary, had they known what fasting was meant to offer them, they would have joyfully approached it and may have been more open in their inquiry as John’s disciples were. We can safely presume they recognized the Bridegroom and followed Him.
The same applies today. There are many that see fasting as passé, and don’t see the spiritual benefit to it. It takes work, discipline, a desire for a stronger will. But we must be motivated in our faith. If we’re motivated then perhaps we will fast in the way fasting was intended. Its benefits are not short-term, but lasting. It’s an important exercise for our faith and our relationship with Christ, entering and allowing ourselves to enter more deeply into our relationship with His Son.
May God bless you.
This post is contributed by Fr. Chris Lemieux.