Pope Francis on February 16, 2018, called on the faithful to avoid “fake fasting” during Lent, according to a report in Vatican News. His remarks came in his morning homily during mass at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican.
“A true Christian must be consistent, not putting himself on show, never despising others or engaging in quarrels or disagreements,” the Pope said. He explained that the faithful should avoid behavior that is inconsistent with the spirit of Lent.
Referencing the first reading of the day from chapter 58 of Isaiah, that discusses the correct manner of fasting, Francis warned against the temptation of “showing off” by fasting: “by making a fuss of it and letting people know that we are practicing Catholics and we do penance, so that people think what a good person.”
He said this sort of behavior is a trick – pretending to be virtuous. He encouraged all to fast, but to smile while fasting. And he recommended at least a partial fast for those who can’t commit to a total fast even “if you cannot commit to a total fast, the kind that makes you feels hunger in your bones” you can still fast humbly and consistently.
He continued by inviting the faithful to fast because it can help others. Fasting involves lowering oneself by reflecting on one’s sins and asking forgiveness from the Lord, he noted. And consistency in fasting also means acting as a Christian in other areas of life.
“Does my fast help others?” the Pope asked. If not, “it’s inconsistent and it takes you on the path to a double life, pretending to be a just Christian – like the Pharisees or the Sadducees…if I am unable to do something, I will not do it. I will do only what I can with the consistency of a true Christian.”