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Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time. The reading is from Gospel of Matthew 6:16-18.

Teaching about Fasting – Matthew 6:16-18

When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting.

Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.

We cannot conclude that all the Pharisees during the period of Jesus were bad, because the Gospels say so. Some at least, must have been disciplined and devout men of religion, and serious believers in God, who had committed themselves to a life of regular prayer and observance of God’s Law given to them through Moses.

The Jewish calendar has comparatively few regular fixed fast-days. The Day of Atonement is the only fast-day prescribed by the Mosaic law. In Leviticus 16:. 29-34, we read:

The Fast – Leviticus 16:. 29-34

This shall be an everlasting statute for you: on the tenth day of the seventh month every one of you, whether a native or a resident alien, shall humble yourselves and shall do no work.

For on this day atonement is made for you to make you clean; of all your sins you will be cleansed before the LORD.

It shall be a sabbath of complete rest for you, on which you must humble yourselves—an everlasting statute.

This atonement is to be made by the priest who has been anointed and ordained to the priesthood in succession to his father. He shall wear the linen garments, the sacred vestments, and purge the most sacred part of the sanctuary, as well as the tent of meeting, and the altar. He shall also make atonement for the priests and all the people of the assembly.

This, then, shall be an everlasting statute for you: once a year atonement shall be made on behalf of the Israelites for all their sins. And Moses did as the LORD had commanded him.

Later on after the Captivity were established four regular fast-days in commemoration of the various sad events that had befallen the Israel nation during that period

  • Thus says the LORD of hosts: The fast days of the fourth, the fifth, the seventh, and the tenth months will become occasions of joy and gladness, and happy festivals for the house of Judah.k So love faithfulness and peace! (Zechariah 8:19).

These were the fast of the fourth month (Tammuz), of the fifth month (Ab), of the seventh month (Tishri), and of the tenth month (Ṭebet). According to some rabbis of the Talmud, these fasts were obligatory only when the nation was under oppression, but not when there was peace for Israel.

But the Pharisees of Jesus’ period went far beyond the requirements of the law. They fasted twice a week.

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