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GOSPEL COMMENTARIES


 

 

 

ON FASTING (MAUNDY THURSDAY)

Now is the time of salvation, to heal every stain of sin and vice. So pray to the Divine Physician and do not despise His precepts.

You will be healed if you carefully observe the doctor's orders. But if you do other than what is ordered, the illness is aggravated and the transgressor, alone, is at fault.

Our sins must die before life is given to us: "You have died to your sins and now your life is hidden in Christ." We die when we cease to be what we have been and we live when virtue appears in us.

Impiety in us must die so that mercy may arise; adultery must die that chastity may be born. Idolatry must die so that true religion may live. Drunkenness must die so that sobriety might come to birth. We must die to sin that we may rise in virtue. . .this is to be born again, a second birth.

God strikes to heal us. He strikes us with His precepts in order to heal us. He inflicts blows with His commandments in order to correct us. Thus, by striking Paul, he was restored to health. Striking him down from his horse, making him blind and weak; from a Jew, he became a Christian; from a blasphemer, an apostle; from Saul to Paul.

God is the divine physician who strikes in order to heal us, Who gives us life by causing death. Let us submit to Him so He can remove everything that is of the devil from us and leave only that of God with us.

And what is His precept?  For starters -- to fast and to pray. By fasting, we control the passions of the body; by prayer, we nourish the soul.

Elias, by prayer and fasting, merited help for his people. Moses, with prayer and fasting, merited to speak to God. And Christ prayed and fasted, teaching us how to overcome all evil. 

There is a useless and empty fast that empties the stomach and the intestines but does not empty the mind of worldliness and the heart of wickedness. The body refrains from strong wine while the thoughts wallow in the wine of avarice. Such fasting weakens the boddy but does not save the soul.

True fasting is to fast from sin, from food and even from the good things in life. The body abstains from food so that the soul may abstain from vices. Most fasting simply fills up our pantries; but it does not fill our souls with virtues.  

True fasting is meant to draw God's pity on us. The only fasting pleasing to God is when we chastise our bodies with abstinence while clothing our souls with humility.

Lastly, whatever is given up in fasting and abstinence must be given to the poor. So, while you go hungry, someone else is satisfied. Your hunger profits you and the beggar's fullness also profits you.

But the one who fasts and does not give to the poor has just gained an economic advantage, saved a few pennies and has just acted in a businesslike way. They weaken their bodies to save money.

During this period of Quadragesima, Christ, by His fasting in the desert, is obliging us to do the same . . . under pain of losing our souls.

St. Maximus of Turin,  Sermon 35

 

 

 

 

 

(02-02-04)

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