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To Fast as the Lord Wants It Done

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There is a place for fasting in contemporary Catholic spirituality, but the practice must be based in love—love of God and love of all God’s creatures. Following the catechesis in Matthew 6, it must be linked to prayer, by which we express love of God, and to almsgiving, by which we express love of neighbor. It must be rooted in an imitation of Jesus in the desert, in a personal acknowledgment of our hunger for God’s word and in an awareness of our solidarity with those who hunger for bread. In the final analysis, fasting is not an end in itself, but a practice that enhances our love of God and of neighbor  (Carole Garibaldi Rogers, America)

“Can the children of the bridegroom mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they shall fast.  (Matt. 9:15)”

HUNGER.GIF Today’s Gospel reading makes two things clear about fasting:

  1. Fasting among Jesus disciples’ is different from the way fasting is done in other circles; and
  2. Fasting is done in reference to Christ, the Bridegroom

The word “fasting” can mean a lot of things.  Lately, it has been used in health and beauty circles.  “Fasting” in the Christian sense is not primarily about health, fitness or asceticism per se.  The Lord explains the motivation for fasting in a way that may be difficult to understand:  he explains it in reference to the lack of His presence:  “when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, then they shall fast.”
What does the Lord mean by this?  Does he mean that since he is now not present in the midst of his Church, his disciples should fast as in mourning?  But isn’t it that the Lord isn’t totally absent?  That although he may no longer be present to the Church the way he was two thousand years ago, he is still there as the Resurrected Lord: “For wherever two or three are gathered, I am there with them in their midst.”?
The passage is best seen within the context of the wedding party in which the Bridegroom is present.  The joyfulness of a wedding party makes it easy for the ones celebrating to be generous:  no one gets hungry, no one remains naked, and everyone gets comfortable.  The Lord is still present in our midst, and so the banquet atmosphere that he enjoyed with his disciples should continue to be expressed in generous living, in the fight against injustice, in feeding the hungry and clothing the naked and giving home to the homeless.  However, the real banquet — what John saw as the banquet of the Lamb and His Spouse — is still a future event.  We are still bereft of the Lord’s presence until that time.  And so fasting — the deprivation of food and drink — is practised because we know that no earthly banquet can match the heavenly banquet to which we are called to participate.  We fast from worldly banquets so as to be hungry for that eternal banquet that the Lord has reserved for us.
The generous and self-less life, the fight for justice — this is one side of fasting; the other side of fasting is the expression of our longing to be with the Lord forever. 

Originally posted 2005-02-11 21:03:50. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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