There’s fasting and then there’s fasting! If fasting is going to be effective (and we should want to effectively fast) then we have to be motivated in the right way and know why we fast; we must have a good reason. In today’s Gospel the question of fasting arises. John’s disciples we can presume really want to understand what’s behind the fasting they are not seeing Jesus’ disciples adhering to. The Pharisees who are also fasting, basing it on their tendency to judge and criticize probably don’t want to learn but rather pass judgement on what they see as another ‘rule-broken’. I think it’s safe to assume that they are not going to really understand or accept the bridegroom’s place in all of this, and not only because they don’t accept Jesus as the Bridegroom. In order for religious fasting to be efficacious we need to accept and understand the end and see our fasting as a means to get there. How is the discipline and practice of fasting going to get a person closer to God (His Son) than to be with Him, body, blood, soul and divinity? But here we are, and we are not with our Lord in the same way as His Apostles were, and so we fast that through our practice we might draw ever closer to Him.
The Pharisees saw Jesus’ practice and that of His Apostles as an affront to the rules which they strictly adhered to. But strict adherence didn’t bring them and it won’t bring us closer to Christ. That’s not to throw away the rules! On the contrary, had they known what fasting was meant to offer them, they would have joyfully approached it and may have been more open in their inquiry as John’s disciples were; we can safely presume they recognized the Bridegroom and followed Him.
The same applies today. There are many that see fasting as passé, and don’t see the spiritual benefit to it. It takes work, discipline, a desire for a stronger will; but we must be motivated in our faith – if we’re motivated then perhaps we will fast in the way fasting was intended. It’s benefits are not short-term but lasting. It’s important exercise for our faith and our relationship with Christ, entering and allowing ourselves to enter more deeply into our relationship with His Son. May God bless you.