In last week’s Gospel we were told that we would be judged by Christ at the end of time on the basis of how we helped people in need. This is quite challenging, but probably most of us try to do this. However, there is a lurking danger here. That is, we may begin to feel superior to those we help. This is the sin of pride. How do we know if we are proud? Perhaps the person we help is not sufficiently grateful or is rude to us. If our anger flares up, then we know we are proud, which is a sin. But if we do sin in this way we know that God will forgive us. However God will only forgive us if we forgive others. As our Lord says in today’s Gospel (Mt 6:14-15) “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Christ warns us of another area where pride may be lurking. He says in regard to fasting (Mt 6:16-18) “And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” These words do not apply to us literally; we do not “disfigure our face” or fail to “wash our face” when we are fasting. But we can make a show of our fasting. For example, if we visit a non-Orthodox person’s house during Lent and that person innocently prepares some non-Lenten food, we should not assert ourselves by announcing that we are fasting and can’t eat it. This could be a tremendous source of pride. But of course, the real danger is within us. If, when we fast, if we feel superior to another Orthodox person whom we see eating meat during Lent, Web Article February 22, 2015 these can easily turn into another source of pride. This is something we must struggle against.
But important as giving up meat and airy products is, this is not the whole of fasting. For example it is easier to not eat meat rather than to fast from gossip or spiteful words. Our daily life is so filled with words of judgment, anger, spite and so on, the thought of fasting from them can almost seem impossible. However, fasting from animal products during Lent can strengthen our ability to fast from hurtful words, so we see that both kinds of fasting are necessary during Lent.