February 27, 2009

Why Fast?

Friday after Ash Wednesday
Matthew 9:14-15 "Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do
not fast?"

Tragic news made us sad yesterday. A Grade IV student from Ateneo de Manila University died on the spot when a speeding car hit him at the school’s parking area. Everybody knows that it was not intentional. Maybe the lady driver, out of panic, stepped on the gasoline pedal instead of the break. It was a fatal mistake that caused one life. But it was not intentional.

I might not commit a big mistake and unintentionally kill somebody. But in my own little way, I may have hurt people unknowingly with my unkind words and harsh action because of my insensitivity and selfishness.

The gospel today is not discounting the value of fasting. In fact, Jesus tells us that fasting must be done in the right context and understanding.

Some of us abstain from eating because they want to lose weight. That’s not fasting but dieting.

Some of us do fast as a form of penance for their sins. It’s not really fasting but mortification – a self denial that helps a person overcome both psychological and physical weakness, and helps him grow in virtue.

But real fasting is when we consciously or intentionally denied ourselves of our needs and think of the need of other people. That’s fasting! It must always be an “other-oriented” action. God said, “This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.” (Isaiah 58:6-7).

In this Lenten season, let’s purify ourselves with our self-centeredness; and think “others.” The more we think of others, the more we become sensitive to their feelings and needs, and the more we avoid unintentionally hurting others.

Today, let' set aside our habit of “unintentionally hurting each other.” Let’s try the habit of “INTENTIONALLY LOVING EACH OTHER.” That’s the best way to fast.

- Willy M. Samson,SJ
Sacred Heart Chapel
February 27, 2009

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