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The real purpose of fasting

February 16, 2024

THE Lenten Season being a time for intense spirit of penance and mortification in preparation for the ultimate act of love by Christ as he offered his life on the cross and finally conquered our sin and death through his resurrection, we should try to understand appreciate the necessity for such penitential acts like fasting and abstinence.

In the readings of the Mass on Friday after Ash Wednesday, we are given some ideas of what true fasting is. For example, in the first reading, from the Book of Isaiah, we are clearly told about true fasting is. “Is not this rather the fast that I have chosen?” it says

“Loose the bands of wickedness, undo the bundles that oppress, let them are broken go free, and break asunder every burden.” (58,6)

Fasting is not just a matter of refraining from our usual intake of food. We have to make sure that such act would have the effects mentioned above. When we fast we should keep in mind the effects we intend to produce and come up with the appropriate plan to achieve them.

The gospel for the day (cfr. Mt 9,14-15) is even more specific as to what fasting is for. It is to see to it that we foster our longing for Christ, our burning desire to identify ourselves with him.

In so many words, this is expressed thus, “The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?’ Jesus answered them, ‘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.’”

Indeed, we have to see to it that our fasting and abstinence would truly fuel our desire and hunger for Christ, identifying ourselves with him to the extent of even offering our life for the sins of men, just like what Christ did for all of us.

Let’s remember that only when we truly identify ourselves with Christ can we also share in his powers and everything that he has. Let’s remember that he is not sparing in this regard, but is making himself fully available for us.

Toward this end, we have to realize the need for fasting. That’s because our body needs to be disciplined, because with our earthly condition that is wounded by sin, it usually finds its pleasure in earthly things rather than in God. And fasting is one such effective form of self-denial and carrying the cross of Christ.

With fasting we align our body according to the dynamics of God’s love that will always be motivated by the salvation of mankind and will involve sacrifice. We don’t fast simply because of some health reasons, be it physical health or mental or emotional. Our fasting should be motivated by love.

And fasting nowadays may involve more than food. It can involve the use of our modern gadgets and technologies that if resorted indiscriminately can truly spoil and enslave us.

We really need to practice restraint and moderation in the use of these new things so that we would not compromise our spiritual and supernatural bearing. We need to purify our intentions and set clear limits when using them. In fact, we have to come out with a concrete plan to translate this ideal into reality.