Commentary on the Gospel of
Some people fast because they want to get into a better body-shape. The alpha and the omega of their fasting is themselves, reduced to physicality. Such fasting is nothing more than a material act. Yet some people engage fasting as a spiritual act, but primarily oriented towards themselves growing in holiness. Their fasting too remains pretty much within themselves, albeit with some finer taste! The problem with these two types of fasting is, there is some violence involved in them. And because violence begets violence, such people, especially the spiritually oriented ones of the type mentioned above, can become very sacrificial and intolerant of others. This is what Isaiah points to, when he talks about those who fast end up “striking each other with wicked blows”! For, their fasting is born neither out of love nor of joy, but of pure obsession with oneself.
True fasting in its authentic spiritual sense, is no individual, private act, self-contained in the one who fasts. Rather, fasting is always an other-oriented act, an act integrally linked to just and true relationships. It is making space for the other in one’s life. That is what Isaiah means when he says that the true fast liberates the oppressed, puts food in the mouth of the hungry, clothes the naked, houses the homeless….
When the bridegroom is present, the world is an ideal happy place where God’s love rules, and what is the need to fast? But when the bridegroom is taken away, when God is pushed out of human lives and consequently poverty, hunger, and violence abound, the true disciples will fast—to make space for the suffering ones, to bring the bridegroom into their hearts, to return God’s love to human hearts.
We are in such times. We need to fast in manifold ways. For the sake of the other.