Rev. Karl Reko
And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18)
Of all the acts of worship we will engage in for Lent: Confession, Repentance, Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving, and Acts of Mercy, fasting is probably used less than the others. We may give up chocolate or some other treat, but few go without food for an extended period as happened in the Bible and in medieval Christianity.
Rather than for religious purposes, when we fast, entirely or in part, it’s more familiar for us to fast as a part of dieting or moderation. But the point for us Christians is that the body is as important as our inner selves in a time of sober spiritual preparation for the greatest event of all, the coming of the bridegroom in the Resurrection.
We fast or diet in order to bring our body into shape for better health. The same is true for better spiritual health. And yet, distinguishing between bodily and spiritual health still doesn’t entirely make the point. For us Christians, both are preparations for worship and service by our entire selves. Our Creator made us unified beings and wants to welcome us into God’s presence as beloved children in our whole selves.
Jesus promises a reward from the Father for those who don’t cheapen pious acts in order to elicit admiration. The reward is our coming into God’s presence in worship. Whatever enhances that preparation for worship and service is valuable.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, our coming bridegroom, be with us as we wait for your return in the Resurrection as the bridegroom. Help us to prepare our whole selves that we might use in this Lenten season whatever is helpful in preparation for the time when we welcome you, and the fasting will end. Amen