Memorial of St. Agnes, virgin and martyr
(Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 2:18-22)
Fasting, a form of self-denial, has many purposes. During Lent people fast to show remorse for sins. Holy women and men fast to show their love for God. Fasting prepares athletes for training and competition. Doctors demand that patients fast before medical procedures.
In Scripture Jesus fasts before he goes out to proclaim the Reign of God. This fast is likely intended as a discipline preparing him for the rigors of mission. In the exercise he comes to realize that more than on anything else he depends on God. In today’s gospel, however, he tells the Pharisees that his disciples do not have to fast for the moment. He explains that now is their time for spirited fellowship. Fasting, he indicates, is more appropriate for mourning.
Unfortunately many people have abandoned the custom of fasting. Even the simple penance of meatless Fridays during Lent seems too much a burden for some. We should fast regularly by not eating for an extended period or by abstaining from food we particularly enjoy. In so doing we show not only our willingness to submit to God but also our love for Him.