Friday after Ash Wednesday
(Isaiah 58:1-9a; Matthew 9:14-15)
Fasting – Isaiah in effect denies it in the first reading today, and Jesus delays it in the gospel. There is, therefore, cause to wonder about its worth.
Medics often demand that patients fast before undertaking certain procedures. Of course, people needing to lose weight regularly fast for salutary reasons. Religious traditions, despite the reservations of the readings today, have long considered a way to purification. Not only does it allow the body to purge itself of contaminants; it represents a victory over one’s often excessive appetite.
Catholics in Lent are bound to fast only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. That is, only on these two days are we not allowed to eat between meals. But individual, more strenuous fasting is encouraged. Skipping a meal and even passing an entire day without eating can express genuine love for the Lord. Still, God has decreed that the fasting that pleases Him most is working so that all may enjoy the freedom without which fasting cannot be a willful act of love but an inescapable necessity out of want.