REFLECTION FOR TODAY
February 19, 2021
By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA
“The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Matthew 9:15
Our gospel reference today speaks about fasting which is not just about abstaining from food. True fasting can mean performing works of mercy or “fasting” from things that draw our attention away from God and from our life as Christians. When we fast in an authentic way, we let our light break forth like the dawn.
Our appetites and fleshly desires can easily cloud our thinking and keep us from desiring only God and His holy will. Therefore, in order to curb one’s disordered appetites, it is useful to mortify them by acts of self-denial, such as fasting. But during Jesus’ public ministry, when He was daily with His disciples, it appears that self-denial was unnecessary for His disciples. One can only speculate that this was because Jesus was so intimately present to them every day that His divine presence sufficed to curb any and every disordered affection.
On the surface, when we fast, we are imitating Christ, who fasted for forty days in the desert. Whenever we carry out works of penance by denying something we want, we are imitating Christ who denied his own life for our sake. But on a deeper level, through our penance we are clearing out our souls. We are clearing out of our soul those desires which serve only ourselves. The more and more we remove these desires, the more room there is in our soul for the desires of God, the fruit of which are the works that He wants to accomplish within us and through us.
Fasting as a form of spiritual discipline, it is more than just skipping a meal and feeling the physical hunger. Fasting is also a form of prayer, and as in any form of prayer, it must also bring us closer to God. In short, fasting should cleanse us from selfishness and greed and to draw us closer to God and to those who are in need. Fasting also cleanses us of the darkness of sin in us and brings about the healing grace of God so that God’s light can shine within us again. So, let us take this spiritual discipline of fasting seriously, and we will see the fruits in our lives, fruits of love, kindness, compassion and charity.
Each one of us is called to be not only a follower of Christ (a disciple) but also an instrument of Christ (an apostle). And if we are to fulfill these roles well, our disordered fleshly appetites cannot get in the way. We need to allow the Spirit of God to consume us and lead us in all that we do. Fasting and all other forms of mortification help us to stay focused upon the Spirit rather than upon our weaknesses and fleshly temptations.
Reflect, today, upon the importance of fasting and mortification of the flesh. These penitential acts are not usually desirable at first. But that’s the key. By doing that which our flesh does not “desire,” we strengthen our spirit to take greater control, which enables our Lord to use us and direct our actions more effectively. Commit yourself to this holy practice and you will be amazed at how transforming it will be.
My dear Lord, I thank You for choosing to use me as Your instrument. I thank You that I may be sent by You to share Your love with the world. Give me the grace to conform myself more fully to You by mortifying my disordered appetites and desires so that You and You alone can take complete control of my life. May I be open to the gift of fasting and may this penitential act help to transform my life. Jesus, I trust in You.