Gospel: Mt 9:14-15
The disciples of John came to him with the question, “How is it, that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not your disciples?“
Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The time will come, when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then, they will fast.“
What is “Fasting and abstinence?“ The law of fasting requires Catholics ages18–60 years to take only one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The law of abstinence, which is not eating meat on Ash Wednesdays and all Fridays of Lent, binds those who have completed their fourteenth year onwards. The sick, of course, are not obliged.
Why Fasting and Abstinence? It is not for diet purposes. We abstain and fast for a salutary spiritual reasons (1) as penance for our sins and as (2) a spiritual discipline. We remember that Christ spent 40 days in desert in fasting and prayer before He began his public ministry. Those who have to contend with the evil, those who intend to exorcise the evil one prepare for the spiritual combat through prayer and fasting. St. Jean Vianney was so effective in driving the evil one at the confessional because of his prayer and fasting.
Fasting and abstinence are spiritual exercises that build our spiritual muscles or our ability to do battle with the evil one. We are always tempted. The devil likes to offer us always an easy path. The devil always offers us comfort. Fasting and abstinence train us to resist the lure of the easy path and instead train us to face the difficult path of the way of the cross to which Jesus calls us.