Friday (February 28)
Fasting for the kingdom of God
Gospel Reading: Matthew 9:14-15
14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to 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.
Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 58:1-9
1 “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. 2 Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God. 3 `Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. 4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD? 6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide from your own flesh? 8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am. “If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness
Are you hungry for God? Hungering for God and fasting for his kingdom go hand in hand. When asked why he and his disciples did not fast Jesus used the vivid picture of a wedding celebration. In Jesus’ time, the newlywed celebrated their honeymoon at home for a whole week with all the guests! This was a time of great feasting and celebrating. Jesus points to himself as the bridegroom and his disciples as the bridegroom’s friends. He alludes to the fact that God takes delight in his people as a groom delights in his bride (Isaiah 62:5).
Humble yourself before the Lord your God
To be in God’s presence is pure delight and happiness. But Jesus also reminds his followers that there is a time for fasting and for humbling oneself in preparation for the coming of God’s kingdom and for the return of the Messianic King. The Lord’s disciples must also bear the cross of affliction and purification. For the disciple, there is both a time for rejoicing in the Lord’s presence and celebrating his goodness and a time for seeking the Lord with humility, fasting, and mourning for sin. If we hunger for the Lord, he will not disappoint us. His grace draws us to his throne of mercy and favor. Do you seek the Lord with confident trust and allow his Holy Spirit to transform your life with his power and grace?
Fast and hunger for more of God and his righteousness
What kind of fasting is pleasing to God? Fasting can be done for a variety of reasons – to gain freedom from some bad habit, addiction, or vice, to share in the suffering of those who go without, or to grow in our hunger for God and for the things of heaven. Basil the Great wrote: “Take heed that you do not make fasting to consists only in abstinence from meats. True fasting is to refrain from vice. Shred to pieces all your unjust contracts. Pardon your neighbors. Forgive them their trespasses.” Do you hunger to know God more, to grow in his holiness, and to live the abundant life of grace he offers you?
“Come, Lord, work upon us, set us on fire and clasp us close, be fragrant to us, draw us to your loveliness, let us, love, let us run to you.” (Prayer of St. Augustine)
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
A Daily Quote for Lent: True fasting, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 AD
“All the endeavors for fasting are concerned not about the rejection of various foods as unclean, but about the subjugation of inordinate desire and the maintenance of neighborly love. Charity especially is guarded – food is subservient to charity, speech to charity, customs to charity, and facial expressions to charity. Everything works together for charity alone.”