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Why fasting? For someone, not for something

bread and water

Pascal Deloche / Godong

Fr. Luigi Maria Epicoco - published on 02/24/23

Christian fasting is a way by which we are reminded of at least three important things.

Today’s readings can be found here. Read Fr. Epicoco’s brief reflections on the daily Mass readings, Monday through Saturday, here. For Sunday Mass reading commentary from Fr. Rytel-Andrianik, see here.

Why fasting? This seems to be the question that today’s Gospel is addressing. But Jesus also tries to take us elsewhere:

“The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

His answer makes it clear that one fasts “for someone,” and not “for something” – one does not fast “in the abstract,” so to speak. Doing so would mean giving our religious practice a magical attribute of sorts: “if I do this, then that happens.” Instead, doing it “for someone” reminds us that we are doing things to keep our relationships going. 

If the one we love is with us, we have every reason to be happy. If that person is not with us, then we should welcome that lacking as a way in which our love can also be expressed. True love gives us joy as much as pain, often at the same time. Those who want to exclude pain, automatically exclude joy as well.  

Christian fasting is a way by which we are reminded of at least three important things.

~ First, that we do not live by bread alone; namely, that no material thing can ever truly satisfy the hunger for love and meaning we carry in our hearts.

~ Second, that the Lord has made us free so that we do not need to be subservient to our needs. Every now and then, saying no to ourselves helps us to strengthen that freedom.

~ Third, that fasting is about our relationship with Jesus – it is a way to be in solidarity with His passion, a passion that is constantly renewed in the pain of every man and woman, everywhere in the world.


Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio,’ Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

DiscipleshipGospelLiturgyMassPrayerSpiritual Life
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