Friday, September 2, 2011

“Are you fasting, show me the fast with your works - Saint John Chrysostom

“By fasting, the body learns to obey the soul; by praying the soul learns to command the body.”

Gospel text (Lc 5,33-39):
The scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus,
"The disciples of John the Baptist fast often and offer prayers,
and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same;
but yours eat and drink."
Jesus answered them, "Can you make the wedding guests fast
while the bridegroom is with them"
But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
then they will fast in those days.
And he also told them a parable.
"No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one.
Otherwise, he will tear the new
and the piece from it will not match the old cloak.
Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins.
Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins,
and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined.
Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.
And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new,
for he says, "The old is good."

Jesus' disciples were accused of being soft on prayer and fasting (Lk 5:33). The Pharisees made a judgment based only on what they could outwardly observe, and misunderstood the underlying context for the disciples' actions.

Have you ever been misunderstood in your Christian walk? Have you ever served someone out of love and then had that person or group completely misinterpret your motives? Perhaps they shunned you or even accused you of wrongdoing (see Jn 16:2-3).

In Isaiah's time, people were confused about fasting. The Israelites cried out to the Lord: "Why do we fast, and You do not see it? Afflict ourselves, and You take no note of it?" (Is 58:3) Isaiah prophesied: "Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?" (Is 58:5)

In Zechariah's time, people were also confused about fasting. Bethelsarezer asked the priests and the prophets: "Must I mourn and abstain in the fifth month as I have been doing these many years?" (Zec 7:3) The Lord answered: "When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and in the seventh month these seventy years, was it really for Me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, was it not for yourselves that you ate, and for yourselves that you drank?" (Zec 7:5-6)

When Jesus walked the earth, some of the religious leaders said to Jesus: "John's disciples fast frequently and offer prayers; the disciples of the Pharisees do the same. Yours, on the contrary, eat and drink freely" (Lk 5:33). Jesus dispelled their confusion by stating that His disciples would fast in a radically new way after His Ascension (Lk 5:35).

Before Vatican II, the Church told us to abstain from meat on Fridays and to fast for the forty days of Lent. After Vatican II, the Church's laws regarding Friday abstinence and fasting were significantly lessened. Some people thought that the Church was de-emphasizing fasting. However, Pope John Paul II has made it very clear that fasting with prayer is extremely important. He stated: "Prayer and fasting are the first and most effective weapons against the forces of evil" (The Gospel of Life, 100).

Don't be confused, selfish, or defeated. Fast!

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