– Friday after Ash Wednesday –
Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. [Mt 9:14-15]
Fasting has a literal and symbolic meaning. When taken literally, it means that you and I are to do penance by abstaining from the unnecessary. Symbolically, it is indicative of the struggles we all experience as we attempt to pay attention and remain open to what matters in and around us. So easily we can become distracted by peripheral matters.
That these are challenging times is without doubt. However, it is worth recalling that it has never really been easy to live the Christian faithfully. The radical nature of the Christian message is such that it calls everyone beyond ‘the comfortable’ if engaged with properly.
You have been baptised in Christ, and this is what being baptised means: taking on the life of Christ so that we may live in him. Coming to terms with the implications of our baptismal commitment is a beautiful and yet challenging process. It involves the profound realisation that our baptism is the essence of who we are.
If we seek to live our faith as if it is a coat we occasionally wear – to be put on when the weather is bad but otherwise kept at the back of the closet – then the Christian life will remain a mystery to us. A faith that is not reflected in every aspect of our lives is scarcely faith at all.
As we fast, we find small ways of reminding ourselves that everything we have and are comes from, and belongs to, God. It is never too late to start.
By Shane Dwyer