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FASTING FOR SALE, Lk 5:33-39 (Friday of the 22nd week in Year B)
By Augustine Agwulonu
Fri, 04 Sep 2015

FASTING FOR SALE, Lk 5:33-39 (Friday of the 22nd week in Year B)

What is new about Jesus' religiosity and spirituality that is radically different from those of the Pharisees and John the Baptist? How is it that the disciples of the latter fast, and those of the former do not? But what is the purpose of fasting? If it was curiosity that inspired the Pharisees to ask for the reason why their disciples and those of John fast without Jesus' disciples doing so, then we could also share in it.

And so, Jesus promptly answers the question of the Pharisees and Scribes. I infer from Jesus' answer that the tradition of fasting was to be improved with his coming on the stage of religious practices and spiritual observances. There was to be a deepened understanding about fasting, which Jesus came to introduce. Our Lord advocated an attitude change towards fasting. There was to be a new outlook to fasting. The foundation for the fasting, which Jesus introduced was to be laid on repentance (metanoia).

Jesus' disciples could not fast according to the foundation upon which the Pharisaic and Johannine fasting was laid. This is the meaning of Jesus' parable that new wine should not be put in an old wine skin and a piece of a new cloth cannot be used to patch an old cloak. Secondly, Jesus reveals the deeper, if not the deepest meaning of fasting. Fasting should be a means of elevating the human mind and soul to God. It is an act of raising the heart to God. It is a way of expressing a person's hunger and need for God. So, if Jesus, who is God was with his disciples, then it made no sense for them to fast. Jesus is the Groom. The Church is the bride. The wedding feast was going on. In fact, the marriage was symbolically between Jesus and his disciples as the pillars of the Church of Christ. It would have been very anachronistic for them to fast while their own wedding was going on.

On another note, Christian fasting is neither a demonstration of physical strength and bodily resilience nor a display of a personal ascetic endurance. It is rather a spiritual exercise for spiritual purposes. The beauty and excellence of spiritual exercises lie in performing them privately, without attracting undue attention to oneself (cf. Matt 6:16-18).

In the world today, for purposes of modeling, fasting is practiced, even to the point of anorexia. This can never be the intention and result of Christian fasting. Any fasting that endangers life cannot be approved by God. For Jesus said that he came so that we might have life and have it abundantly (cf. John 10:10). The Christian fasting is to enhance life, both biological, religious and spiritual. Fasting is to help people be alert in prayer and watchful over their moral and spiritual lives. If eating would make a person sleep and thereby less effective and productive, then fasting should be considered.

Finally, fasting has the practical relevance of saving something for the poor and less privileged. Fasting is also a humble way by which people can to express their vulnerability and need for God and his divine support. May the good Lord accept our fasting and prayer, to the glory of his name and for our salvation... Amen.


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