Are You “Fake Fasting”?

In a hard-hitting homily given at Casa Santa Marta last Friday, Pope Francis warned the faithful about “fake fasting” which is the work of the inconsistent Christian who goes to great lengths to fast and appear virtuous while despising others and continuing to engage in quarrels and disagreements.

Vatican News is reporting on the homily in which the Pope warned against behaviors that are inconsistent with the spirit of Lent.

He cited Isaiah 58 which highlights how the only fasting that is acceptable to the Lord is that which aims to “release the bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke, setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke.”

Too many Christians are inconsistent in their Lenten fasting, quick to give up food but then “carrying out your own pursuits, driving all your laborers, and yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting.”

Instead, fasting should be a little like “stripping oneself” of pride. “You cannot talk to God on the one hand and to the devil on the other,” he said.

And we must take care not to show off our fasting, “by making a fuss of it and letting people know that we are practicing Catholics and we do penance, so that people think ‘what a good person’. This is a trick. It’s pretending to be virtuous.”

Instead, while we fast, we should do so with a smile while always looking for ways to help others and “release unjust bounds.”

“I think of so many maids who work for their bread and they are humiliated and despised,” he said. “I have never been able to forget the time I went to a friend’s house as a child and I witnessed the mother slapping the 81-year-old maid…”

He exhorted Christians to “do penance,” to “feel a little hunger,” to “pray more during Lent,” but also to ask themselves how they behave towards the other:

“Does my fast help others? If it does not it’s fake, it’s inconsistent and it takes you on the path to a double life, pretending to be a just Christian – like the Pharisees or the Sadducees” he said.

He concluded with a call to pray for the grace of consistency this Lent, to do what we can “with the consistency of a true Christian.”

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