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Why fast? To be free

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Fr. Luigi Maria Epicoco - published on 01/16/23

Fasting is the ability to show that, in the face of a need, we remain free. That is, even if legitimate, needs do not rule over our lives.

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 do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” The question should have been a different one: What is fasting for? Thinking that God feels some kind of gratification from our fasting is ridiculous, but there is something quite real about fasting that sometimes escapes us.

Fasting is the ability to show that, in the face of a need, we remain free. That is, even if legitimate, needs do not rule over our lives. Anyone who knows how to fast from a meal may wonder if he can fast from all those other things that are addictive, or that enslave us. Indeed, fasting is the recovery of our freedom that gives glory to God, not a simple gesture of mortification. 

Mortification is about slaying everything that imprisons us. But why should we do that? For the love of those who love us. That is why Jesus says

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

Being free is a gift that comes only from those who feel loved. You are not free just because you have worked a lot on yourself, but because you have not placed any obstacles to the experience of love. Jesus’ is the love we need. We cannot fast from him. Instead, we must fast from everything that keeps us from having a relationship with him.


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.

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