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40 Shades of Lent 2017, Day 03
Friday After Ash Wednesday, 03march 2017
Isaiah 58:1-9//Matthew 9:14-15

I must confess that while Lent is my favorite season in our liturgical calendar due to its rich and meaningful readings, it is also my most problematic area in preaching when I feel being inadequate, even handicapped, in explaining the practice of fasting. Every time I talk about fasting, I could feel some people not taking me seriously.
I could be paranoid but the truth is, even I am fat, I do fast. It would not just show…
Mataba man po ako, nag-aayuno din po ako. Hindi nga lang po talaga halata. Peksman.

In every religion there is always the practice of fasting because it is the primary means to experience God.
We Christians are not alone in fasting but we are different with the other believers because we fast not only to experience God but also to make Him present in us and through us. That is the very meaning of Jesus Christ’s reply to the query of the disciples of John the Baptizer on why they fast but His disciples do not? “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from then, and then they will fast.” (Mt.9:15) Jesus was simply being modest and polite with His answer that simply meant “
I am the reason why you all fast so that I would come among you. But since I am already here, my disciples need not fast until I return to heaven. That is when they fast.”

And that is why we fast. Or better, that is why we are asked to fast. It is very unfortunate that fasting and abstinence are two Catholic practices that distinguish us apart from other Christians before but, not anymore. We have ceased to fast not only during Ash Wednesday and Good Friday but even before receiving the Holy Communion in the Sunday Mass, making all kinds of excuses with bold claims of having sacrificed so much in doing good deeds that we need not fast from food anymore. These are the very same mistakes of the people in the Old Testament of having themselves as the focus of their fasting rather than God through others. “Why do we fast, and you do not see it? Afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?” Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers. Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw. Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high!” (Is.58:3-4)

The idea of fasting is not to punish men and women nor deny them of so many pleasures and goods.
Fasting is supposed to make us feel better physically, emotionally, and spiritually as we get more focused with God to be filled by Him. Take this simple analogy of “no meat on Fridays.” Meat in Filipino is “laman” or carne as we usually say that also mean flesh. If we translate “no meat” literally, it is “walang laman.” However, it now acquires another meaning, not just no meat or flesh but also “empty”. When something is empty -walang laman- it could always be filled with something else. When we are empty of food and other pleasures, that is when we are filled with God.
The other Sunday we have reflected that holiness is being filled with God wherein we try to fulfill the laws of God by being charitable and just. When we begin to do good things in the name of God, slowly, we become better persons that unknown to us, we become the presence of God among others. “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am!”(Is.58:9) How wonderful it is when eventually we become the presence of God, speaking through us with “Here I am”!
Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Sta. Maria, Bulacan