“Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”
– Matthew 9:14 (NRSV)
Jesus was asked this question by the disciples of John the Baptist,
who very well knew the fruits of fasting
and who therefore taught about the importance and need of practicing this form of penance.
Fasting was then, and always will be,
one more sign of the spirit of penance that God asks of mankind.
God encourages us to perform that personal religious act,
which has as its end
love for and abandonment to Him.
When penance is accompanied by prayer,
it can be used to manifest humility before God.
In Holy Scripture we see several instances
when fasting and other works of penance are performed before the commencement of any difficult task;
to implore forgiveness of sin;
to obtain the cessation of a calamity;
to gain the grace needed for the fulfilment of a mission;
to prepare oneself to come face to face with God…
Of course we cannot ignore Jesus’ reply to the observation that His disciples did not fast:
“The wedding-guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast.” (Matt 9:15)
The wedding-guests are the friends of the bridegroom, who is Jesus.
But, His disciples, His friends, were physically with Him…and so they do not need to fast,
however He emphasised that when He no longer is visibly present,
they would then certainly fast
because they will have need of acts of penance and self-denial
if they are to see Him with the eyes of their soul.
Jesus’ call to conversion and penance aims at the conversion of the heart – at interior conversion.
He wants us to fast, to pray, to give to the poor, to exercise self-control through self-denial,
however without a true conversion of the heart, such penances remain sterile and false.
Today I must ask myself, in God’s presence,
how I can live this spirit of penance throughout my life,
but in an even more special way during the season of Lent.
REPETITIVE PRAYER FOR TODAY…
Jesus, my Lord and Saviour, I want to abandon myself to You.
Change my heart, Lord. Renew me and fill me with faith,
and also with the determination to offer up to You acceptable sacrifices of contrition, penance and love.
… … … … … … … … … … … …… …
Note: The main source of today’s REFLECTION is the seven-volume work
“In Conversation with God” by Padre Francisco Fernández Carvajal.