“The days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.”

Jesus encounters scribes and Pharisees who take issue with Jesus’ disciples who, unlike them or even John’s disciples, do not fast (Lk 5:33-39).  Jesus says they cannot fast now that He is here, but they will eventually (see the line at top).  Jesus follows with a parable of old and new wine and wineskins — new wine goes into new wineskins so the skins won’t burst but some are content with the old wine and don’t want to try the new.  Fasting is not dismissed by Jesus as a good practice.  He did it Himself (Mt 4:1-9; Lk 4:1-2), taught that it should be done and how it should be done (Mt 6:16-18), and also spoke of its power (Mt 17:14-21).  Acts 13 and 14 show that the early Church practiced it, and Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, spoke of it in his ministry and recommended it to others.  There is a time for it though.  We shouldn’t go to a wedding reception or birthday party or Sunday dinner or a Christmas gathering and fast there.  And, moreover, we don’t want to make a spectacle of ourselves by announcing we are fasting or making it clear that this is the case (see the previous Matthew reference).  Fasting is not appropriate for these and other joyous occasions.  But there are plenty of opportunities for fasting in life, as we know.  Fasting, as we read in Scripture, is appropriate for penance, for trials, for special intentions of dire need, for self-discipline, for driving away evil.  It has been a lost practice among the laity and many religious, but it seems to be making a resurgence.  It is worthwhile for us to meditate on all Bible passages that mention fasting and consider how we might incorporate this worthy practice regularly in our lives.  Uniting such time of deprivation with our Lord will do much for our own well-being (in body and soul) and those most in need of God’s mercy.

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