Introduction: The spiritual meaning of « fasting » refers to prohibiting a person from working, eating, or giving place to eventual carnal desires.
The Holy Scriptures declare: « If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh » Gal 6:8a. In this case, God makes a
distinction between « pleasing fasting » and « unpleasing fasting ». In summary: the fast that pleases God is the one that aims at accomplishing
God’s will and advancing his kingdom on earth (Mt 6:10) and, at the same time, the perfecting of God’s people through the word of God,
according to the prayer of Jesus saying: « Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth » Jn 17:17. Abstaining from evil which God hates (Pr 3:7)
is inseparable from the choice to live according to God’s will. Indeed, the Apostle Paul says: « Let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling
and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no
provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires » Rom. 13:13-14. Therefore, « Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh » Gal
5:16, « And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires » Gal 5:24, in other words: they abstain from
sin. The “Pleasing fasting » is not an outward form or practice, but comes from the heart. The Apostle Paul wrote: « For a person is not a Jew who
is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision
is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal » Rom 2:28-29a, as he exhortst us in these terms: « I appeal to you therefore, brothers and
sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship » Rom
12:1. There are « days for fasting » (Acts 27:9), there is also the necessity of contentment in prayer (1 Pet 4:7); but the important thing is to accept
Christ as Lord in our heart (1 Pet 3:15a).
Monday, 28th: The pleasing fasting is to take care of his neighbour.
« Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and
not to hide yourself from your own kin? » Isa 58:7.
Reading 1: Lk 10:25-35. Reading 2: Isa 58:6-12. Preaching 1 (optional). Preaching 2: Isa 58:6.
Introduction: Love is the fulfilment of the law (Rom 13:10b). About this love according to God, Jesus affirmed: « No one has greater love
than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends » Jn 15:13. Thus, « to abstain from evil » is, according to God, nothing else than to love
and do good to the neighbours, as the apostle James taught in these terms: « Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is
this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world » Jas 1:27.
Tuesday, 29th: Unpleasing fasting: selfishness.
« Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things » Lk 16:25a.
Reading 1: Act 5:1-11. Reading 2: Lk 16:19-31. Preaching 1 (optional). Preaching 2: Lk 16:25.
Introduction: While love of neighbour is the fulfilment of God’s law, selfishness is its transgression. Those who are selfish and do not
care for their neighbour will put up with God’s judgement and eternal curse, as Jesus said: « Then he will answer them, Truly I tell you,
just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the
righteous into eternal life » Mt 25:45-46.
Wednesday, 30th: Unpleasing fasting: Hypocrisy.
« You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye » Mt 7:5a.
Reading 1: Gal 2:11-18. Reading 2: Mt 7:1-6. Preaching 1 (optional). Preaching 2: Mt 7:7.
Introduction: God hates hypocrisy, which is to appear righteous outwardly in deed and word, but without true repentance in the heart. For
Jesus warns: « And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street
corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward » Mt 6:5. God cannot be deceived, and
hypocritical worship is vanity to Him. The apostle James rightly says it: « If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues
but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless » Jas 1:26.
Thursday, 01st: Pleasing fasting: self dedication to God.
« If we live, we live to the Lord » Rom 14:8a.
Reading 1: Jos 24:11-15. Reading 2: Rom 14:7-9. Preaching 1 (optional). Preaching 2: Rom 14:8.
Introduction: God wants us to commit ourselves to serve Him and to proclaim His salvation, in response to His gift of His only Son to
redeem us sinners (I Tim 2:6). This is why the apostle Paul wrote: « But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish
my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace » Acts 20:24. This means to
dedicate one’s whole life to Jesus, which made him say: « it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me » Gal 2:20a.
Friday, 02nd: Approved fasting: Self-denial for God.
« Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury » Mar 12:43.
Reading 1: 2 Cor 9:5-12. Reading 2: Mar 12:41-44. Preaching 1 (optional). Preaching 2: Mar 12:43.
Introduction: The dedication of one’s life to God leads to lavishly giving what He has lent us – time, strength, health, skills, money and
resources – for Him and for our neighbour. Here is the exhortation of the apostle Paul on this subject: « Therefore, my beloved, be
steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain » 1 Cor 15:58.
Saturday, 03rd: The pleasing fasting: Abstaining from sin.
« Abstain from every form of evil » 1 Thess 5:22a.
Reading 1: Mt 5:43-48. Reading 2: 1 Thess 5:12-24. Preaching 1 (optional). Preaching 2: 1 Thess 5:22.
Introduction: He who is without holiness will not see God (Heb 12:14b). The apostle Paul strongly admonished the believers of Corinth
for this respect when he said: « Come to a sober and right mind, and sin no more » 1 Cor 15:34a. Abstinence from all forms of lust is one
of the objectives of the apostles in this respect, as the apostle Peter wrote: « Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the
desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul » 1 Pet 2:11.
This pericope is available in Malagasy, French, English and German, and can be found on the site www.hifi-madanet.org and on Facebook « Hi & Fi Français ». Listen to hifiradio.org, 24 hours / 24, 7 days / 7: lessons, gospel songs … © Madanet