Why do we fast?
March 9, 2017
CHRIST was once asked this
question. The disciples of John the Baptist and of the Pharisees
wondered why they had to fast much while those of Christ did not. (cfr
The answer came immediately.
“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.”
I suppose Christ was
referring to himself as the bridegroom. In fact, in his Letter to the
Ephesians, St. Paul referred Christ as the groom of the Church, that
is, us. (cfr 5,22-32)
Christ can be regarded as
the bridegroom who actually is with us always, but also not yet fully
with us, given our human and temporal condition as of yet. We are
still on our pilgrim way on earth toward our eternal destiny in heaven
where Christ will be fully with us.
That is why Christ can be
considered somehow as not yet with us, and that’s the reason why we
have to fast. It is to train ourselves to seek him. It is to make us
realize we need him, and that we actually will find our true and
lasting joy with him. At the moment, we are still kind of mourning, as
Christ said, because we are not yet fully with him.
We have to be clear about
the reason why we fast. We should not just fast because we have been
commanded to do so. We have to fast because, especially at these times
when we are easily carried away by earthly pleasures, we need to
sharpen our longing for Christ.
Fasting has a dual effect.
One is the passive or the negative effect, which is that of
disciplining ourselves – especially our senses and our other bodily
faculties. This is the self-denial part. And the other is the active
or the positive one, which is that of honing our hunger for Christ.
This is the following part, as illustrated in the very words of
Christ: “If any man wants to follow me, he must deny himself, carry
the cross, and follow me.”
This two should go together,
mutually affecting each other. One without the other would distort the
true character and purpose of fasting.
And nowadays, we have to
understand that fasting should not be limited to matters of food and
drinks. It has to be extended now most especially in the use of the
many conveniences that we now enjoy, like our new technologies, that
have an effective way of enslaving us and blunting our love for God
and for others.
We need to concretize our
resolutions with regard to this need for fasting. This may mean that
we have to set aside our cellphones from time to time, that we use the
gadgets with clear rectitude of intention, that we refrain from
complaining when these same gadgets give us problems as they often do
We have to understand that
everyday, the element of fasting as a sacrifice is actually a
necessity to all of us.