Fr. Francis Scaria
Some of the disciples of John the Baptist had turned fasting into a ritual as did also many of the Pharisees. They came to Jesus with a self-righteous question, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” (Mt 9:14). Jesus did not register their complaint, instead showed them that they had made the mistake of turning fasting into a ritual by answering, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them...” Further, Jesus also pointed out to them that there was some mismatch in their own lives. “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for patch pulls away from the cloak and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins and so both are preserved” (Mt 9:16-17).
Some do make a mistake of turning fasting into a magical ritual. No doubt fasting does have its significance. When Jesus was once asked why his disciples could not caste out a demon, his reply was, “This kind can come out only through prayer and fasting” (Mk 9:29).
Real meaning of fasting is hidden in the words of St. John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). Fasting is an act of giving greater space to God. If fasting is meant to give space to God, when God comes down, one should be eager to receive him and enjoy his presence. Some of the Pharisees and John’s disciples had failed to find the presence of God in Jesus. Although John the Baptist came as a precursor to Messiah even some of John’s disciples did not recognise messiah in Jesus. That is why even long after the beheading of John his disciples continued as a movement. In the beginning of chapter 19 of Acts of the Apostles we still find the disciples of John.
Fasting is to give greater space for God and heavenly realities. We give up the food of this world to feed ourselves with the food from heaven and to relish it.
MUSINGS : 1-25,