We are now in the season of fasting, the fast of the apostles. I recently found out that this is the hardest fast for many people, particularly for the youth because its right after the 50 days after resurrection which we don’t fast(even on Wednesday and Fridays) for 50 days straight. So going from being able to eat whatever we want for almost the past two months and then going to another fast brings that unspoken annoyance or sadness for some of us- another suppression especially when it seems that we didn’t get any spiritual benefit from our previous fasts. Our church teaches us that this fast was first done by the apostles AFTER they received the Holy Spirit. We need to emphasize this a little bit more. The disciples fasted after they are filled with the Holy Spirit. Christ Himself spoke prophetically about their fasting in Matthew 9: 15 saying:
“But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
And on the next verse, Jesus Christ explained why they needed something in their life from inside out to be changed by someone, the Holy Spirit, so that they will endure and exercise a true fast.
“Who would patch old clothing with new cloth? And no one puts new wine into old wineskins.” Matthew 9:16
Our fast for this season should be a spirit filled fast but, what does a spirit filled fast look like?
Not Fearful Slaves
Spirit filled fasting is manifested when we are restraining ourselves without fear. As Saint Paul mentions in Romans 8:15,
“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves.”
A spirit filled fast means we focus on what we will receive and how it is much greater than what we’ll be giving up. Therefore, even though our flesh still has desires, we must willingly and joyfully give up indulgences because what we’ll receive. Saint Paul says it this way:
“We believers also groan(through flesh), even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children including the new bodies, he has promised us.” Romans 8:23
So what’s our fear? This is the fear of what condemnation would be upon me if I wouldn’t fast or a fear of what I would lose from the world if I fast. Such attitude is of a slave not a servant who is freely and willingly following Christ.
In another place St. Paul says “wherever there is the Spirit of God, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17) And when there is freedom there is no fear or guilt. Therefore, our fast has to be spirit filled in a way that we willingly and freely choose to fast with joy.
Process of building the Temple
In a Spirit filled fast, the goal is not fasting itself. Instead, the goal is to build ourselves to be the temple of God through the process of fasting. Most of the time, we focus on the action and forget the outcome we want to achieve because of it. If we are first filled with the spirit, we focus on the process of fasting which is the ups and downs of the life of fruitful chastity or even sometimes failure what eventually will prepare us to be the dwelling place of our God.
“Through Him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by His Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22)
Furthermore, in a Spirit filled fast, when along with cleaning ourselves, we ought to replace the obscenity with godliness. We won’t be fruitful if we fast from putting food in our mouth and in turn if we use that mouth to bring forth hurtful words to our brothers and sisters. Mainly in the youth, how many brothers are hurt and bullied by the name of ‘joke’? How many sisters has a hard time to trust anyone by being a victim of gossiping?
“Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4
In the parable of “the patch and cloth” or “the wine and the wineskin” in Matthew Chapter 9; the readiness of the cloth or the wineskin is to be the dwelling place of “the body (in the case of cloth)” or “the wine (in the case of wineskin).” Therefore, if our fasting is not to prepare our bodies (temple) by being filled with the Holy Spirit to be the dwelling place FOR Himself, our labor of fasting will be in vain. Therefore, we need to not only fast from fleshly indulgences but instead fill our body, soul and mind with godly pursuance so that we can be build a temple and make our body a dwelling place for God.