Do you remember the famous words from the Book of Ecclesiastes (3:4): “A time for tears, a time for laughter. A time for mourning, a time for dancing. A time for throwing stones away, a time for gathering them together. A time for embracing, a time to refrain from embracing.” As the season of Lent approaches, we add: A time for feasting, a time for fasting.
From the beginning, Christians gave great importance to fasting once a year during the 40 days before Easter. We do this as penance. In other words, we do this, asking God to show mercy and purify us from our sins. King David himself pleaded with God in the Book of Psalms (51:1): “Have mercy on me, O God, in your faithful love.
In your great tenderness wipe away my offences. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I am well aware of my offences. My sin is constantly in mind … Purify me with hyssop till I am clean. Wash me till I am whiter than snow.”
The idea of fasting is to imitate what Jesus himself did. Saint Matthew says (4:2): “He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights.” It is up to us to determine how to do this fasting. The obvious thing would be to reduce food and drink.
Personally, I think many people would benefit just as much by fasting from entertainment. It’s up to each Christian to decide. Just remember that we are doing this as penance. We aim to humble ourselves, to be truly sorry for our sins and turn back to God.