SUNDAY, MARCH 20, 2011
LENTEN MEDITATION II
In this period of Lent, bible commentators are agreed that fasting is an essential ingredient in the spiritual upliftment of a child of God. Jesus knew its importance and participated in it. It was said of Him ‘…after fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry’. Mtt. 4v2.
Chrysostom maintains according to Agha U. Agha in: The new meaning of fasting in our age contemporary Biblical and historical interpretation of fasting, that ‘when Christ fasted He was laying the foundation of what He was to say concerning His passion, and He was also training His disciples to be aware of the things that would come upon them which He deemed sorrowful’.
And so in his homily on St. Matthew’s Gospel, Chrysostom again asserted that ‘Christ fasted in order to instruct us how to know how great a good fasting is, and how it is a most powerful shield against the devil, and Christians should submit not to luxury and drunkenness, and a full table, but to fasting, for that was why He fasted. Through His forty day’s fast Christ pointed out to His followers the medicines of their salvation. Through His fasting, Christ left a clear example of how his followers can prevail and be victorious. He taught us that man shall not live by bread alone’.
There is need therefore for the mortification of the flesh at this time in order to allow the spirit man to be strong in the Lord. Over time food, pleasure has been a bane to Christian’s spiritual development. The New Testament Church could have lost her focus because of food. What did the Bible say?
Acts 6v1: ‘But as the believers rapidly
multiplied, there were rumblings
of discontent. The Greek speaking
believers complained about the
Hebrew – speaking believers, saying
that their widows were being
discriminated against in the
daily distribution of food’
Thank God, the apostle’s timely intervention saved the church and her believers from derailing on food matters. The Bible had noted ‘… they said, the apostles should spend more time teaching the word of God, not running a food programme’ Acts 6v2 (b).
It behooves the believer to put his appetite on check less he derails on momentary and ephemeral things.
St. Augustine’s admonition for us at this time of lent is helpful: ‘that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we may live temperately and righteously, and godly in this present world… looking for that blessed hope, and the appearing of the glory of the blessed God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ’.
Our comportment is very essential. The Bible is full of examples of people who fasted; read up as follows: Acts 10v32; 13v3; 9v9; Isaiah 58:6-10; Jonah 3v6-9; Neh. 1v4; & Ezra 10v5-6.
It is necessary that Christians tackle these critical elements of worldliness and hypocrisy as they fast in this Lenten season. The earlier they do this, the better for the larger society.
According to Chrysostom, during fasting faces should not be disfigured, corrupted, or marred just to show people how great we are in fasting. He compares the disfiguring of the face during fasting to the vain glory of women who corrupt their faces with makeup and lead to ruin unchaste young people.
The above tallied with the teaching of Jesus to His disciples in: Mtt. 6v16-18 ‘And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.’ The direct implication of the above is that fasting if properly done will attract reward from the throne of grace.
I agree with St. Augustine who says perfect fasting brings hope for a reward in Heaven. He asserted that in this world we celebrate, as it were, the forty days abstinence, when we live aright, and abstain from iniquities and from unlawful pleasures. Fasting therefore shall not be without reward, the reward awaiting us is: ‘that blessed hope and the revelation of the glory of the great God, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ’.
However, reward must not be the motive for fasting.
Ven. Ernest Onuoha
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Retreat Centre,