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Fasting and Rejoicing with Christ
Gospel Reflection for July 8: Saturday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus speaking to the disciples of John, who are accusing his disciples for not fasting. Jesus responds to them, saying, “Can the children of the bridegroom mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they shall fast.” (Matt. 9:15 DRB) Later, after Jesus’ Ascension, we find the apostles fasting and praying many times. For instance, in the Book of Acts, the Holy Ghost speaks to the Apostles, instructing them to send forth Paul and Barnabas. As Scripture states, “Then they, fasting and praying, and imposing their hands upon them, sent them away.” (Acts 13:3) While the apostles clearly are committed to prayer and fasting, following the footsteps of Christ Himself, they do not hesitate to rejoice and celebrate His presence with them. The Church reflects these words of Christ concerning fasting in her instructions to the faithful. She appoints a time for fasting in Lent and a time for festivity during the Eastertide and in her numerous feasts throughout the liturgical year.
St. Thomas Aquinas writes that there are two reasons for fasting: “…the deletion of sin, and the raising of the mind to heavenly things.” (ST, II, q. 147, a. 5) By giving up earthly pleasures, we make reparation for our sins. Furthermore, we are enabled to help others through our sacrifices. By sacrificing temporal goods on earth, our minds are raised to the treasures of eternity. The very reason for fasting is that we are brought closer to Christ. This is illustrated by the Church’s command that the faithful fast at least one hour before receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion. Through fasting from material food, we are brought to the feast of Our Lord in the Eucharist Who is the live-giving food for our souls.
In this gospel, we are reminded that Christ does not want us to live severe and unhappy lives, but rather to live lives full of happiness, radiating His love and joy to the world. This is beautifully illustrated in our fasting with Christ during Lent which finds its fulfillment in rejoicing with Him in His resurrection. In offering up her sufferings with Christ, the Church shares in the joy of the glory and triumph of her Bridegroom. St. John Paul reminds us of this truth:
“We do not pretend that life is all beauty. We are aware of darkness and sin, of poverty and pain. But we know Jesus has conquered sin and passed through his own pain to the glory of the Resurrection. And we live in the light of his Paschal Mystery – the mystery of his Death and Resurrection. ‘We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!’” – John Paul II