March 7, 2014
(Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, Martyrs)
The Lord said through the Prophet Isaiah, “This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed;” Is 58:1-9a
Jesus said, “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.”
So why do people fast?
Well, there are actually many reasons.
Probably the most common reason that people fast today is because it’s required before any medical surgery. Ever wonder why? Well, I’ve always thought it was just because those doctors didn’t want us vomiting on them in the middle of their procedure (Now, I’m not a medical doctor – so this is going to be simple). And that statement is almost true, but there is a little more to it besides.
From what I’ve read, during anesthesia, the muscles in our throat relax, and it’s possible for our stomach contents to migrate over into our lungs, while we’re laying down. And then we could get a bacterial infection there in our lungs, which would not be very good for us.
So we fast.
Fasting might also be used to control overeating, for weight loss. Unfortunately this could be bad for some of our bodily organs if we don’t do it in a medically friendly way.
As Catholics, we fast at Lent as a sign of our reverence for God. It says that we love God enough, that we are willing to suffer a little for Him. It also humbles us in a way that gives us just a glimpse of the suffering that the truly poor and hungry people around the world are going through. And that just might spark our compassion to offer them some help, from our abundance.
In the Bible, people fasted as a way of asking God’s mercy for their sins. Unfortunately, their fasting became a self-righteous show that was done to glorify themselves in front of others. And this is the type of fasting that the Prophet Isaiah was chastising the people for in today’s first reading. God didn’t want their false pride. He wanted their action in helping the needy.
Jesus often called the Pharisees hypocrites for the same reason. They fasted to, supposedly, please God. And yet, they were overly strict with the poor, who were actually more important to God than was their fasting. St. James said, what good does saying,
‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ do for the poor, without giving them the things they need for the body.” (Jam 2:16) It would all be – just hot air. Jesus often said, God wants mercy,
And then another reason people fasted in the Bible was to get God’s attention, to get God to come back and be in their presence again. It was kind of a “pay-it-forward” philosophy . . . If I show God that I’m humble, maybe he’ll forgive me and come back.
So when John the Baptist’s disciples asked Jesus why He and His disciples didn’t fast as they did, Jesus simply replied, that they didn’t need to fast so that God could come to them – because HE was already there with them! They just didn’t realize that Jesus IS Immanuel, which means, “God is with us.”
And Jesus is with us, beloved, in Spirit, today as well.
As we begin this Season of Lent again, we really do not HAVE TO fast, if it’s something that can harm our health. But what we should do instead, is anything within that group of tasks that Isaiah described in the quote above and Jesus described in Matthew 25: when He said, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
And what they did was:
– Feed the hungry,
– they Gave drink to the thirsty,
– Welcomed the stranger,
– Clothed the naked, and
– Visited the ill or imprisoned.
Today we call these acts, the Works of Mercy.
And that IS Exactly – what will please God.
It’s up to us!
We ARE the presence of Jesus
in the world today!
. . . . . . . .
Corporal Works of Mercy
1. Feed the Hungry
2. Give Drink to the Thirsty
3. Shelter the Homeless
4. Clothe the Naked
5. Care for the Sick
6. Help the Imprisoned
7. Bury the Dead
Spiritual Works of Mercy
1. Share Knowledge
2. Give Advise to those who need it
3. Comfort those who Suffer
4. Be Patient with Others
5. Forgive those who hurt you
6. Correct those who need it with love
7. Pray always for others
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