To be set free
To be set free
Fasting is taken for granted in the New Testament. Jesus assumes that his disciples will, as the occasion requires, forego food and drink to concentrate on their spiritual lives. Fasting deprives the body for the sake of the soul.
It is a good thing, therefore, to fast as needed. But good things can be corrupted, and fasting is no exception. In this instance it can be corrupted by the love of having your secret virtues discovered—accidentally, of course. To prevent that, our Lord issues this prohibition.
One might ask: why would anyone want such a discovery?
· There is the desire to be approved. All of us like to think of ourselves as "good people." We don't like to see ourselves as wicked. One way in which we satisfy this desire is to seek the approval of others. What a subtle way this is! The others "just happen" to stumble over the fact that you are fasting. They confirm your opinion that you are a good Christian. You are happy. You are also a hypocrite.
· There is also the desire to be "in." Most of us want to be accepted as a full member of whatever social organizations to which we belong. The church is no exception to that. So we want to be seen to be religious to be accepted. Consider, however, that the church is to welcome all, the devout and the desperate, knowing that this year's wicked sinner may become next year's saint. Being "in" is not the same as being holy.
· Worst of all, there is the desire to be better than. To be seen as a Christian whose virtues are so obviously superior to the average member of the congregation is intoxicating. It is the chief weapon of Satan against the experienced Christian: the weapon of pride.
Chrysostom put it this way: "Contempt of men's praise is no small fruit, for thereby we are freed from the heavy slavery of human opinion." Is your life run by what others think? Do you dress to appear successful, drive the right kind of car and live in the right neighbourhood, go to the right church, all so that you will be approved and "in?" Then you are a slave, a slave to human opinion. There is hope: if the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed. Appeal to him for emancipation.