Glory to Jesus Christ!
In today’s Gospel we hear recounted our Lord casting out a demon from a young man who had been brought unto the Lord by the boy’s father. This particular exorcism is memorable because of what our Lord told His disciples, saying that “this kind,” that is, that particular kind of demon that had possessed the boy, “[this kind] is not cast out but by prayer and fasting.”
And, of course, it is precisely this point that the Church wishes us to think on and take to heart today: Prayer and fasting. Let us make note that prayer and fasting are tools for us, they are means – indeed necessary means – by which we are delivered from evil, they are tools by which we are freed.
Fasting and prayer. Both the one who is suffering from evil and the one who would be a healer of those who are suffering ought to fast and pray. And doesn’t this include each of us?
For one who is a slave to every appetite will easily – and one might even say invariably – fall into disordered passionate attachments. Always catering to the whims of the body will cause the body to become more demanding, and will cause our will to be inclined habitually to give in to every demand of the bodily appetites, be they legitimate or illegitimate, helpful or harmful.
On the contrary, when the appetite is restrained, the will gains strength, and the heart is humbled. A fast and abstinence properly undertaken brings good health and energy, and life.
When we pray and fast, we find that we can be quite satisfied with those things which are truly necessary. One who prays and who fasts does not require much. And one who does not require much will not be a lover of possessions. One who is not a lover of possessions is made all the more ready to give alms; and almsgiving, mingled with prayer, delivers a man from death.
So now that we have arrived at this fourth Sunday of Lent, let us all the more resolve to hurry forward, that through our ascetic labour we may walk the path of our salvation with our Lord.
It is a great task, this ascetic labor. And any time a person undertakes a great project or a task, at first they will often experience hardship and discomfort. But when the work is completed, then they have joy, and gladness, and genuine satisfaction at a task well done.
Without prayer and fasting, however, even the most upright actions and work will not bear the spiritual fruit that they otherwise could. Look at today’s Gospel. In it, we see that the Apostles, duly deputed by Christ Himself to be able to cast out demons, each of them holding the office of Apostle, were nevertheless unable to exercise this ministry of deliverance without themselves undertaking the ascetic labour of prayer and fasting.
Let us take that lesson to heart – even the Apostles are not excused from the duty of prayer and fasting in order that they might actually carry out the mission which is entrusted to them by the Lord. Let us all think well on that.
For in whatever state of life we find ourselves, in whatever has been placed in our care, our own sanctity is a requirement if we are to be truly successful in the work that we must do.
So let us labour, then, in fasting and in prayer, as the Lord commands, that we may drive far from ourselves and from our homes, our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, that we drive far away from all these things we hold dear the passions which trouble us and all semblance of evil.
By God’s grace and love toward man, may we may make progress with good deeds and labours and accomplishments, as we make our way during the Lent that we currently are in toward the day our remembrance of the holy Resurrection, as well as in every moment of our earthly lives.
Today, the Apostles were enjoined to fast and to pray. So likewise today, we who are the beneficiaries and the inheritors of the great treasure of the faith which was given to the Apostles, we likewise inherit this enjoiner of fasting and prayer.
Let us not be discouraged. In whatever difficulties we face, either inside or outside of our hearts, let us kindle hope for the good things yet to come.
It is in this way that we might have the firm foundation of grace, which allows us and empowers us to be chaste, prudent, meek, and humble. Let us take the words of today’s Liturgy as our own, as we pray:
Purified by fasting, let us draw near in spirit unto Thy Cross, O Lord, and let us cry out to Thee in faith-filled prayer: Make us fit for the Resurrection.