WEEKDAY HOMILY FOR FRIDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY
THEME: FASTING LIKE YOURS….
BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo
HOMILY: * Is 58 : 1 – 9, Matt 9 : 14 – 15.
Some kind of fasting and prayer can be very ridiculous. The 1st reading talks about some people praying and fasting yet still indulging in sinful pleasures, oppressing and quarreling with people. Like the prayer of the Muslim fanatic who was chasing his enemy with a dagger when the Muslim call for prayer sounded. He stopped, pulled his mat quickly and said his prayers and continued the chase. Like the fasting of an armed robber who refused the gift of a packet of cigarette from a priest he stopped on the highway because it was on a Friday of Lent. So much ridiculous prayer and fasting in our society today!
The Prophet Isaiah reminds us that the kind of fasting that pleases God is loosing our bonds of wickedness, breaking our yoke of idolatry and engaging in works of charity. St Augustine says : ‘Don’t believe that fasting suffices. Fasting punishes you, but it does not restore your brother! Your fasting will be fruitful if you provide for the needs of another. How many poor people could be nourished by the meal you did not take today?’. According to the Buddhist, Mahatma Gandhi : ‘A genuine fast cleanses body, mind and soul. It crucifies the flesh and to that extent sets the soul free’. The Methodist founder John Wesley recommends fasting for the following people;
(i) Men who are strongly passionate and emotional, (ii) Men who are under deep affliction and sorrow for sin, (iii) Men who had sinned by excess food and drinking, (iv) Men who want to pray deeply, (v) Men who want to avert God’s wrath, (vi) Men who want to get God’s blessing.
But Jesus (not John the Baptist) gives us the real dossier for meaningful and authentic fasting. It’s proper motive should be to search for grace and its rightful timing should be ‘when the bridegroom is taken away’. Jesus was the bridegroom and the Church was her bride and the disciples were the guests of the bridegroom.The presence of sin around us indicates the absence of Christ.
Fasting becomes the sign of mourning for this absence and the sign of yearning for him. The Bible says ‘There is time for everything’. Fasting is not good on Sunday or Easter which are special liturgical seasons of joy (grace). We must make our fast holistic. According to Vima Dasan, ‘A complete fast is a complete and literal denial of self, but abstention from food and even water is the mere beginning – the least part of the self surrender’.
May God bless you today!
FR BEN AGBO.