Rev. Frank C. Senn
But as for me, when they were sick, I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting. I prayed with head bowed on my bosom. (Psalm 35:13)
The psalmist compares his support for others who are afflicted with sickness with the glee his adversaries have over his distress. What is noteworthy is that the psalmist is not fasting for himself but for others. He shares in their afflictions. A contemporary parallel might be friends of a cancer patient who shave their own heads as a sign of solidarity. Fasting for causes, such as world hunger, would be another contemporary parallel. In the ancient church Christians fasted along with those who were preparing for Holy Baptism, showing their support for the candidates. That, in fact, is the origin of this forty day “fasting time” we call Lent. For Christians fasting is not about self-improvement, but expressing devotion to God. We see the psalmist humbling himself before God. We see Jesus in the wilderness clarifying his mission through fasting (Matthew 4:1—11). We discover the meanings of fasting for ourselves when we observe Jesus’s injunction, “Whenever you fast, do not look dismal …” (Matthew 6:16).
Prayer: Lord God, help us by your Holy Spirit to use this time of fasting to show our love for you and our neighbors. Open us by your Holy Spirit to follow Jesus in his forty days of fasting in the wilderness that we may serve you more faithfully; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.