Why do we fast? Why is it important for us to fast? What can we learn from Biblical experience
of fasting? What did Jesus say or do about fasting? How can we fast?
I- Why do we fast?
1- To be able to see: What? Am I blind? How can fasting help me to see?
We are blinded by many things in this life. Therefore, we need to fast in order to see.
We are blinded by disordinate desires (greed, envy, lust, gluttony,...), sins (sin makes us blind), bad
habits (drinking, pornography, swearing, ...), riches (money, talents,...), and pleasures.
Because of these things mentioned above, we cannot see things as they are. We cannot see the face
of God or comprehend his mysteries. We cannot see the face of our neighbor and see his/her needs.
a- Fasting helps us to see the face of God:
Moses fasted on Mount Sinai 40 days without eating or drinking. After he completed his fasting, he
received a great revelation: The Ten Commandments. So Moses stayed there with the LORD for
forty days and forty nights, without eating any food or drinking any water, and he wrote on the
tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. As Moses came down from Mount Sinai
with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his face
had become radiant while he conversed with the LORD.
After we complete our fasting, something about God will be revealed to us: a grace, a consolation,
If you are able to see the face of God, would there be a need for fasting? Listen to what Jesus has to
say to the disciples of John when they asked him this question: Why do we and the Pharisees fast
(much), but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as
long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from
them, and then they will fast.
What can we learn from what Jesus said? If you are able to see God, there is no need to fast. If you
have his consolation, there is no need to fast. But if you cannot see Him, you need to fast. If you
live in desolation, you need to fast.
b- Fasting helps us to see the needs of our neighbor:
We are unable to see the needs of our neighbors because of our selfishness, riches, sins, etc...
Look at the parable of the rich man & Lazarus. The rich man dresses in purple and fine linen and
feasts every day. Lazarus lies at the rich mans gate, covered with sores, and he longs to fill himself
with food. The rich was not able to see Lazarus, though the latter was so close (in fact, he was at his
gate). May be if the rich man has practiced fasting, he would be able to see his neighbors needs.
In the USA, I met an inmate in Jail. He has been a drug dealer and addicted himself to drugs. When
he came into jail, he practiced fasting. He stopped eating & drinking. After a few weeks, I visited
him one to one visit. He cried saying, O Lord, have pity on me. O Lord, my mother, my mother.
I asked him, Whats going on with your mother? He said, I never took care of her. She needed
me, but I was in a different world, the world of illusion with drugs. She needed me, but I wasnt
there. I said, You need to thank God, because now YOU ARE ABLE TO SEE.
2- We fast in order to be protected from enemies:
The message was brought to Jehoshaphat: "A great multitude is coming against you from across the
sea, from Edom; they are already in Hazazon-tamar" (which is En-gedi). Jehoshaphat was frightened,
and he hastened to consult the LORD. He proclaimed a fast for all Judah. Then Judah gathered to seek
help from the LORD; from every one of the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD. Jehoshaphat
stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem in the house of the LORD before the new court, and he
said: "LORD, God of our fathers, are you not the God in heaven, and do you not rule over all the
kingdoms of the nations? In your hand is power and might, and no one can withstand you... We are
powerless before this vast multitude that comes against us. We are at a loss what to do, hence our eyes
are turned toward you." All Judah was standing before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and
their young sons. And the spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel, son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son
of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the clan of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly, and he said:
"Listen, all of Judah, inhabitants of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat! The LORD says to you: 'Do not
fear or lose heart at the sight of this vast multitude, for the battle is not yours but God's. (2 Chronicles
3- We can ask others to fast on our behalf:
After the people of God knew that they would be exterminated, they went into deep mourning, with
fasting, weeping, and lament; they all slept on sackcloth and ashes. The queen Esther was asked to
intercede with the king in behalf of her people. Esther said to Mordecai: Go and assemble all the Jews
who are in Susa; fast on my behalf, all of you, not eating or drinking, night or day, for three days. I and
my maids will also fast in the same way. Thus prepared, I will go to the king, contrary to the law. If
I perish, I perish! (Esther 4:3-16).
We can fast on behalf of our father who has no job or our mother who is sick or we can fast for our
brother who needs to take an important decision in life. Please fast on my behalf.
4- We fast to avoid the anger of God after we commit a grave sin:
Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day's walk announcing, "Forty days
more and Nineveh shall be destroyed," when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose
from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes. Then he had
this proclaimed throughout Nineveh, by decree of the king and his nobles: "Neither man nor beast,
neither cattle nor sheep, shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. Man and
beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; every man shall turn from his evil way and
from the violence he has in hand. Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing
wrath, so that we shall not perish." When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.
5- We fast before we go for the mission:
Jesus fasted 40 days before he began his mission. You can fast before you set peace between your
cousins or neighbors. You can fast before you bring peace & love among people.
Today is the first day of Great Lent for Eastern Catholics. In the Maronite Churches around the world, during the Divine Liturgy, ashes are blended with holy water and painted on the forehead of the faithful.
Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent in the Latin Church.