Today’s very brief Gospel tells us that there is a reason for fasting. Jesus uses the image of the wedding banquet, which in their culture lasts for a whole week! There is feasting and merrymaking for a week or for as long as the newly married couple is with them. Jesus likens himself to the groom and his disciples to the wedding guests. There was joy for as long as they were still around, but fasting begins when the newlyweds have left. Lent is the time for us to fast because we recall the way Jesus was taken away from us, and we await his future rising and coming again.
In our time, fasting has gained a wider meaning. Fasting from food is required of us only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and even then many Catholics do not observe it. It is very difficult to promote self-denial in a consumer society that encourages consumption, vanity, and pleasure-seeking. Why do we have to fast? There can be a variety of reasons: to gain freedom from the grip of our bad habits or vices, to be in solidarity with those who are suffering, or to create a space within ourselves for more spiritual things. In other words, to concretely experience our need and hunger for God.
We do not make things difficult for ourselves for our own sake. Whatever form of fasting we choose, we must do it with joy, or else it is pointless. The prophet Isaiah admonishes those who fast only to fight and quarrel with one another. Further, fasting must be done with a higher value in mind. Each Lent, we are invited to purify ourselves and emerge as better Christians on Easter Sunday. So, what kind of fasting will you observe this Lent?