Monday, Memorial of St. Agnes, virgin and martyr
Many people today diet but few seem to fast. They give up food as if they were fasting in order to look better and to feel better. But they would probably ask the opposite of what the disciples of both John and the Pharisees ask Jesus in the gospel today, “Why fast?” Some might answer quickly that we fast to please God? But is God really pleased when we give up food? Those who doubt the value of fasting are fond of citing Isaiah 58 where God tells the Israelites that He is more interested in works of mercy.
But fasting has its purposes which Jesus implicitly recognizes when he says that its time is coming. He also goes on a forty-day fast before beginning his public ministry. Recalling that difficult experience in which the devil sorely tempts Jesus, we also might ask, “Why fast?” The answer is that we fast so that we might know God. God may not be moved by our fasting but fasting makes us aware of His presence. Moses and Elias fast forty days before they receive their respective revelations. Luke’s gospel mentions that the prophetess Anna In the Temple is accustomed to fasting when she tells those who were awaiting a Messiah about the child Jesus.
Forgoing the satisfaction of eating makes us appreciative of the gift of food and all God’s gifts. A simple reflection on the hunger which fasting induces will permit us to see Christ in those who chronically lack food. Finally and most importantly, fasting confirms our commitment to serve God and not ourselves. As St. Agnes gave up her life to demonstrate her commitment to God, we from time to time should give up some food.