How to explain fast and abstinence to non-Catholics


I was wondering if someone knew a great way (bible verses included!) to explain to a non-Catholic why not fasting/abstaining during Lent is considered a sin.



I would be interested for some ideas too. The writer of an Evangelical blog is hosting “Lent for Evangelicals” and said she see this as necessary since there wasn’t a Biblical basis for fasting/abstinence. :hmmm:


Matthew 6:16 (NIV)
[Jesus speaking]
16"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

Notice that Jesus said “when you fast”, not “if you should happen to find it necessary to fast, though its totally unnecessary and unbiblical.”

Just a thought. :rolleyes:


That was the verse that jumped to my mind too, especially after hearing it at Mass today. I don’t know why I read these things. She also said she doesn’t “get” acts of penance and of course SHE doesn’t NEED a priest to confess. :tsktsk:


There’s more than enough in the OT, which is the Evangelicals’ favourite. Just today’s OT reading from the mass is a great one. Jesus Himself also fasted and He didn’t do things without purpose.

Things like no meat are hard to explain to non-Catholics because they will have a problem with it being on Friday specifically, instead of I don’t know… not eating a cream cake on a random day in a random season of the year.

Additionally, modern people generally have a problem with the concept of giving up anything, let alone suffering. Bentham chimes in - whatever causes pleasure is good, what causes the opposite is bad. Simple as that. Utilitarian views are hard to beat. You can of course provide utilitarian arguments for fasting, too, but it just isn’t about it. And they won’t buy the concept of it being on a specific day, anyway.


I don’t have a Biblical reference, but here is a practical explanation…each time I reach for, desire, or miss the thing I am fasting or abstaining from…I recall WHY I am fasting/abstaining, and my mind is constantly turned back toward spiritual things.


According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus began his ministry by fasting for 40 days, during which time he ate NOTHING. We are required to fast so that we can pay a tithe to God, 10% of our year (40 days), and stop living on the surface of things all the time.

What is sin? A two word definition might be: counterfeit freedom. The direct result of our fasting obligation, to assign a very difficult task to our will and attempt to perform that specific task, is that our will actually becomes occupied with it and it doesn’t offer up to us so many useless promptings. We will recognize again that we thirst. Without useless distraction, the mind clears and we can see how it is possible for our thirst for God to encounter Christ’s thirst for us and we free ourselves.

Here is a link to an extraordinary sermon on the Great Lenten Springtime Fast:


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