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Friday after Ash Wednesday
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “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.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, we are at the beginning of Lent, and I already doubt my ability to keep a Lenten fast. Help me, Lord, to grow in all the virtues, but most especially during Lent to grow in the virtues of temperance, fortitude, and perseverance.
- Fasting Much: The question that John the Baptist’s disciples asked Jesus was like the one asked of God in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, “Why do we fast, and you do not see it? Afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?” Why is fasting such an affliction? Why do we think it merits special attention from God? By fasting from our selfish attachments, we wage a tough battle against formidable forces: the three enemies of the soul: the world, the flesh, and the devil. It is reasonable to want assurance from God we are gaining spiritual graces! The Catechism tells us that fasting “ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart” (CCC 2043). According to St. Josemaría Escrivá, “Fasting allows the soul to fly.”
- The Bridegroom: “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?” seems like a strange response to the question asked, but Jesus was speaking particularly to the disciples of John the Baptist. Jesus’ disciples, whom he referred to here as the wedding guests, enjoyed an intimate personal relationship with him. Jesus was taking this opportunity to proclaim to John the Baptist’s disciples that he is the bridegroom, the Messiah they have been anticipating. Jesus’ response was their answer: his disciples did not fast because they found the goal of fasting—God.
- Then They Will Fast: When Jesus Christ, the Word of God, spoke, every word was rich in meaning. By saying, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast,” Jesus was both preparing his followers for his death and declaring that fasting was to remain as a practice for the faithful. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). Our fasting is not only a personal and singular fight against temptation; Jesus fights in us for us, and we join Jesus in his saving mission for the world. In fasting, the Church as the bride of Christ joins her bridegroom in conquering evil and rescuing souls, including our own!
Conversing with Christ: Lord, you know all the things I choose in preference to you. I want to be your disciple. I want to join in your plan of salvation for the world. What do you want me to fast from so I can become more like you? In, with, and through you, I want to help feed the hungry, give sight to the blind, set captives free, and spread the Gospel.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will choose at least one thing (food, social media, television, alcohol, etc.) that I am very attached to and give it up for the rest of Lent. If I fail, I will try again.
For Further Reflection: A Reflection on Lenten Fasting from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic who seeks to make Jesus more loved through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, and motherhood, and as a writer, speaker, and events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic evangelization ministry located in San Antonio, Texas.