“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.” (From today’s Gospel, Matthew 6:16)
The reason is not to be hypocritical, in the pattern we’ve seen over the past three Sundays, to think that we are better than others. In this saying, we may see something deeper, the wisdom of what it means to live a godly life. Fasting is the more difficult decision. It’s easier to eat what we want, to be the person we want to be, to follow our own “nature.” It’s a modern mantra, “Be the person that you are! Don’t let others – even God – tell you what to do!” But it’s really not “modern,” it goes back to Adam and Eve, who ate the forbidden fruit so that they would “know” – that is, determine what is good and evil for themselves. We have to discern “easy nature” from “real nature,” for God has created us to surpass “nature” and become “godlike.” The army tells us, “Be all that you can be,” but faith tells us, “Be more than you can be.” To choose for ourselves wraps us up in ourselves, and closes us to the whole universe of others and to God. Fasting is a symbol, of refusing the decision of Adam and Eve, of opening ourselves up to others and to God.
Nicholas Denysenko recently wrote, “Fasting is about changing one’s ways for the sake of the other; one dies to excesses and indulgences in one’s life to become aware of the other and his needs, and to rehearse loving the other.” The gospel tells us that we should be joyful in opening ourselves up to the other, a whole new universe awaits us! Fasting is an “alleluia.”
Meditation by Archpriest David Petras