Reflecting on the discussion led by Fr. Fryml yesterday morning about fasting, I found it interesting that in Sacred Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, fasting is almost always linked with something else, worshiping, praying, weeping, mourning, are four that show up on a quick search. Some of the references are below.
Acts 13:2 – While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting,
Acts 13:3 – Then, completing their fasting and prayer,
Acts 14:23 – They appointed presbyters for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting,
Luke 2:37 – She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
Joel 2:12 – return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
Daniel 9:3 – I turned to the Lord God, to seek help, in prayer and petition, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. (Haven’t seen any sackcloth and ashes in a while!)
With respect to Jesus fasting in the desert for forty days during his testing, there is an interesting note with the description in Matthew 4:1-2
- 1 [a]Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted for forty days and forty nights,[b] – Matthew 4:1-2 (Note from Catholic Study Bible: 4:2 Forty days and forty nights: the same time as that during which Moses remained on Sinai (Ex 24:18). The time reference, however, seems primarily intended to recall the forty years during which Israel was tempted in the desert (Dt 8:2).)
I recall discussion in an OT course about the high frequency of forty to describe periods of time or ages. There are various opinions among Bible students ranging all the way from literal truth to OT use of forty as meaning long enough or perhaps old enough. Maybe more on that later.
Words of Wisdom from Jesus About Fasting. 16 “When you fast,[l] do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you. – Matthew 6:16-18 (Part of the Sermon on the Mount, immediately following the Our Father and just before the warning about storing up treasures on earth)
And this from the Prophet Isaiah – A higher calling maybe…a result of fasting?
6 Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking off every yoke?
7 Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry,
bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own flesh?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed; – Isaiah 58:6-8
And Some Pertinent Phrases from the Catechism
1430 – “Jesus’ call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, “sackcloth and ashes,” fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance.”
1434 – “The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others.”
1438 – “The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments…particularly appropriate for …fasting and almsgiving…”
And, finally some statistics: