“Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. 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.” (Isaiah 58:3-4)
The disciples of John asked Jesus: “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” It is possible that the disciples of Jesus were fasting but did not show it. As Jesus told us in our Gospel passage on Ash Wednesday: “When you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. … When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret.” (Matthew 6:16-18)
However, even if the disciples of Jesus were not fasting, there was no need to fast because Jesus, the bridegroom, was right there. We should not fast because it is a fasting season or because everyone around us is fasting. Our fasting must have a genuine purpose and must be done according to the mind of God.
Fasting is not merely a deprivation from food or other pleasurable things, it is a spiritual exercise that involves our whole being. If while fasting, we are engaged in quarrelling, fighting, or acts of wickedness, Isaiah says these things will prevent our fasting from reaching heaven.
If you must fast, let not your hunger become an occasion for anger, fighting or bitterness. It is better to eat well and control your temper than to allow your hunger to push you into sin.
The type of fasting that pleases God is: “to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, to break every yoke… to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him” (Isaiah 58:6-7)
Fasting is good but your fasting is useless if nobody benefits from it. Fast from selfishness, fast from self-centeredness, leave your comfort zone, visit the poor, the lonely, the oppressed, those who have nowhere to stay or cannot afford to buy clothes, and help as much as you can.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, may my fast find favour in your sight. Amen
Bible Study: Isaiah 58:1-9, Ps. 51:3-6,18-19, Matthew 9:14-15).