daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer
Homily of Friday, after Ash Wednesday, February 27, 2009
Is 58:1-9; Ps 50; Mt 9:14-15

"And Jesus said to 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" (Mt 9:15).

We are in those days now, when Jesus is no longer physically present among us, and, as he says, this is the time of fasting, especially now during Lent, which is forty days of prayer and fasting in the desert.

Why do we fast? We fast to have an undivided heart in our love of God, that is, a heart not divided among the unnecessary pleasures of the world and of the table. Even austere eating of only essential things gives pleasure, but this is necessary for life and health, and is unavoidable; but fasting (or one form of fasting) is not to add more-only to give pleasure-to what is necessary; that is, not to add delicacies, things made of white flour and sugar, for example, which have nothing to do with health, but are only added to give pleasure.

We therefore fast from such things to serve only one Lord (Mt 6:24), not two masters, to have but one treasure only, the Lord (Mt 6:19-21), and so that he be our only joy in life, to the degree that this is possible, so that we might live for him alone, loving him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mk 12:30). We fast in order to renounce all to find all in him, who is the buried treasure and the pearl of great price, which are only obtainable at the price of sacrificing everything else (Mt 13:44-46). We fast in order to sacrifice all else to obtain them-to obtain him.

This kind of fasting is to live a simple and austere life. It is very difficult for a rich person, on the other hand, surrounded by pleasures and delicacies, to enter the Kingdom of God (Mt 19:21). Jesus severely warned them, saying that they have already had their consolation in the delights of this world. "But woe to you that are rich," he says, "for you have received your consolation" (Lk 6:24). And the rich glutton, "who feasted sumptuously every day" (Lk 16:19), was told in hell, where he went after death, "Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things" (Lk 16:25).

Blessed, on the other hand, are those who leave all for Christ, for they will receive a hundred times more (Mt 19:29). They will be the last in this world, who will be the first in the Kingdom of God (Mt 19:30). They are those who have followed the way of perfection in leaving all (Mt 19:21). Happy and blessed, then, are the poor (Lk 6:20) and the poor in spirit (Mt 5:3), for they are the anawim, the poor of Yahweh, who have lost and renounced everything of this world, and remain only with God, with all their heart, with an undivided heart; and he is all their joy. We fast from the delights of this world to be like them, the blessed of the Lord.




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