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Thoughts for the Week
 
 

 

First Sunday of Lent

Thoughts for the Week - Fr R Taouk 
22nd February 2015

Christ is in the Desert by St. Vincent Ferrer

Today's gospel tells us about the holy fast; and first, the convenient place where he fasted. Notice that when Christ wished to fast for forty days, he chose not to fast in the city of Bethlehem, where he was born, nor in the temple where he was presented, nor in Nazareth where he was nourished, nor among men, but in the desert which is the habitat of beasts. This he says at the beginning of the gospel, "Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert" (Mt 4:2) - and this location was very appropriate. The reason is because of the fittingness which the desert offers for the purpose of the fast. A fast is ordered to a three-fold end; namely restraining, liberating, and for merit.

Firstly, for restraining sins and vices, which for the most part happen from the inclinations of the flesh. Because of this fasts are ordered for refraining. For just as in the case of a stupid man who is armed, the arms with which he could do much harm are taken away, so likewise the body of man, stupid, armed with food and drink and other delights, which God gave us for the necessity of nature, when indiscreetly taken often kill the soul. So they should be prudently taken away and removed from him.

Secondly, a fast is ordered for freeing the soul, which, as long as it is united to the body, is much impeded by the body in spiritual goods. And so it is said, "For the corruptible body is a load upon the soul" (Wis 9:15). So that the soul might be free for working spiritually, the flesh is restrained through fastings, and so the soul is raised freely to God. It's like a scale. When one side is weighed down, the other is raised, and vice versa.

Thirdly, (a fast is ordered) for meriting and acquiring spiritual treasure, because just as through the whole year a man works for the needs of the body, so, by fasting, at least in this holy season, you labour for the soul. For all of these reasons, see the authority of St. Gregory (the Great), who says, "You who restrain your vices by a bodily fast" - note the first, to restrain - "you raise your mind", - see the second, namely, to free the soul - "you will receive virtue and rewards", - see the third, to merit. Thus the triple ends of fasting very much fit a desert place, where vices are restrained, because you do not have the occasion of sinning, nor by seeing with your eyes, etc. and so for the other senses. It is clear, therefore, that the desert is the convenient place for a fast.