16 February, 2018: Fasting

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Friday after Ash Wednesday

Reading : Is. 58. 1-9a; Gospel: Mt.9.14-15
The readings of today dwell upon the theme of ‘fasting’. The question about fasting reminded me of a personal experience.
A couple years back, I was talking to a devout young man. Contrary to the usual practice, he (though a lay person) was enquiring me about my ‘spiritual life and growth’. Amused, I engaged in conversation with him which revolved around prayer and penance. With much difficulty I confided in him saying that it is very easy for me to do penance like fasting for any number of meals or days, but I find it very difficult to spend time in prayer. He gave me a very sharp reply that still remains evergreen in my mind: “If you abstain from food and do not pray, it cannot be called ‘fasting’. It is only ‘starving’. Unless you pray, all your fasting (read ‘starving’) is in vain.”
We must understand that while praying strengthens the soul and brings us close to God, fasting helps us to break away from those sinful habits and inclinations that we struggle so hard to break away from. It weakens such evil bonds and helps us to win over them by the mercy of God. Therefore our fasting needs to be interwoven with prayer. Sometimes we get so used to these prescribed practices of piety that we can observe them on a routine basis without giving much thought to why we are observing them.
We can be sure that God does not need our fasting. It is only for our spiritual benefit. Hence we need to observe it with diligence. Our fasting should bring about something positive either for us or for others. And we need to remember that the ultimate fast that the Lord expects of us is fasting from sin and to do what is right in His sight (Is 59:6-7).
Which sinful habits are you going to fast from in this Lenten season for the love of the Lord?

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