Day 334: The Meaning of Fasting

Acts 13:1-52 From this chapter forward, Acts deals almost exclusively with the missionary work of Paul. The success and growth of the Christian community in Antioch provided a launching point for evangelization throughout the Gentile regions. Saul, soon to be called exclusively by his Roman name, Paul, began the first of his many missionary journeys, for which history has called him the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” The Church in these regions began to organize itself in a manner similar to the Church in Jerusalem, with ordained elders (presbyteros in Greek, whence the word “priest”) to celebrate the Eucharist along with prophets and teachers to instruct in the Faith. Although frequently mentioned, the offices of bishop and priest were not clearly defined in the New Testament. These hierarchical ministries and their role in the Church are explained in more detail in early second-century writings. (CCC 74, 442)

Ch 13:2 For the work to which I have called them: The Greek leiturgia, meaning “public work,” is the source of the word “liturgy.” In the New Testament, leiturgia refers primarily to the communal worship of God and the celebration of the Eucharist although it can also refer to the proclamation of the Gospel and the practice of charity in service to God and to neighbor. In her liturgies, the Church functions “in the image of her Lord...she shares in Christ’s priesthood (worship), which is both prophetic (proclamation) and kingly (service of charity)” (CCC 1070).

Ch 13:3 Fasting and praying: These were traditional ascetical practices of the Jews. Likewise, Christianity teaches the value of prayer and fasting, and the fourth Precept of the Church relates to the observance of days of fasting and abstinence. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are a means for the conversion of heart and the forgiveness of sins. While fasting is required on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, the Church recommends these practices especially during the period of Advent and Lent. (CCC 1434-1439, 1969, 2632)

Ch 13:5 Whenever Paul entered a new city that had a Jewish community, he would always begin his preaching in the synagogue. This was in keeping with Christ’s mandate to preach to the Jews first and then to the Samaritans and Gentiles.

Ch 13:10-12 Paul’s punishment of the magician may seem harsh, but it was only temporary. St. John Chrysostom noted that Paul “chooses to convert him by means of a miracle similar to that by which he himself was converted” (In Acta Apostolorum, 28, 1). (CCC 1287)

Ch 13:13-43 Paul summarized the story of salvation by relating the history of Israel and demonstrating how Christ fulfilled the prophecies of old. Christ is the fulfillment of the covenant God made with David to send a king who would rule forever. His Resurrection on the third day (i.e., before the body would begin to decay) fulfills the prophecy that the Messiah would not suffer corruption (cf. Ps 16:10). Paul closed with a warning of self-imposed suffering should they reject the opportunity for redemption in Christ.

Antioch of Pisidia: This is not the Antioch in Syria with the large Christian community but a smaller place by the same name in Galatia. Seleucus Nicator, successor to Alexander the Great, had founded a number of cities of the same name to honor his father, Antiochus.

You that fear God: A comment directed to the Gentile believers, the “God-fearers” who worshiped alongside the Jews. Through these members of the congregation the ranks of the Gentiles filled the synagogue service on the following Sabbath (cf. Acts 13:44-45). (CCC 445, 523, 614, 1990, 2606)

Ch 13:15 Synagogue services typically included readings from Scripture, the Torah, along with traditional Jewish prayers and a homily or sermon given by a rabbi or other speaker. (CCC 2599)

CH 13:24-30 The prophets and John the Baptist preached of the coming of the Messiah, yet the hearts of many were still hardened, and those who opposed Christ put him to death. With his Resurrection, the truth of the Apostles’ preaching is verified and their mission to the world is confirmed. (CCC 523, 597, 601)

Ch 13:31-34 The Resurrection of Christ, verified by many witnesses, is at the core of the Christian faith. The Resurrection is explicitly reported in Scripture and Tradition and is the foundation for the entire scope of the Christian Faith. In fact, the truth of the Resurrection was so compelling that the Apostles and members of the early Church were willing to die on behalf of this essential tenet of our Faith. In the victory of the Resurrection, the suffering and Death of Christ finds its full meaning. (CCC 638, 647, 653)

Ch 13:44-52 The growth of Christianity was anything but smooth and easy. The animosity of Jewish Christians against Gentile Christians, who were considered unclean as they did not follow the Law of Moses, reappears repeatedly throughout Acts. These misunderstandings would eventually require a council to resolve the issue of the Gentile Christians. (CCC 854)

Ch 13:46-48 Paul explicitly declared that the Gospel would rightly be preached to the Jews first. Because the leaders of the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia had not accepted the Word of God preached by Paul, the Gospel was next offered to the Gentiles, who received it with joy. It would be inaccurate, however, to suppose that the Gentiles were called to faith in Christ only by default of the Jews. The Gospel was directed toward every human person regardless of ethnic background. However, given the fact that the Jews were the Chosen People and were beneficiaries of God’s covenant with Moses, they would enjoy the privilege of being the first to hear the Gospel message. (CCC 2640)

1 Corinthians 7:1-9 While celibacy is the higher calling, both marriage and celibacy are gifts from God and wonderful means and opportunities for personal holiness. Those who are called to marry commit themselves to serving Jesus Christ through their spousal love for each other. Those called to celibacy commit themselves entirely to God and to the service of others. (CCC 1641, 2013, 2349, 2394)

Ch 7:5 Do not refuse one another: Husbands and wives have certain rights of sexual intimacy, which must be mutually consensual. Prolonged refusal of one spouse to be intimate with the other could lead to temptation and a variety of sins against charity and chastity.

Agreement for a season: A couple may agree to abstain from sexual activity for a period of time to give special focus to prayer and penance as long as their purity is not compromised. Natural Family Planning, a moral means of avoiding or delaying pregnancy, involves abstinence from sexual intercourse on days when conception is possible. Such a measure may be undertaken for serious reasons. Artificial methods of birth control that frustrate the reproductive process are always gravely sinful. (CCC 1643, 2368-2370, 2398-2399)

Ch 7:10-11 Sacramental marriage is exclusive, i.e., between one baptized man and one baptized woman; it is also indissoluble, meaning that it is a lifelong union. A valid, sacramental marriage ends only with the death of one of the partners; this teaching comes directly from Christ himself. If one of the elements essential for a valid marriage is lacking, the Church may grant a declaration of nullity, or annulment. Essentially, an annulment is a statement that a marriage never existed, thereby freeing each partner from marital obligations and allowing each to enter into a valid, sacramental marriage with another person. (CCC 2364, 2382)

Ch 7:12-16 The Pauline Privilege provided for an annulment of marriage if the pagan spouse of a Christian convert left the marriage or prevented the Christian from practicing his or her faith. Church law still reflects this practice today. “In virtue of the Pauline privilege, a marriage entered into by two unbaptized persons is dissolved in favour of the faith of the party who received baptism, by the very fact that new marriage is contracted by that same party, provided the unbaptized party departs” (CIC 1143 S1). (CCC 1633-1637)

Ch 7:17-24 Baptism brings about an interior change in the new believer. This sanctifying grace renews the individual by forgiving all sin and giving a participation in the life of Christ. Reception of Baptism is tantamount to a call to holiness.

Ch 7:21 A slave: Slavery was common in the days of the Roman Empire. Some slaves were educated and treated with respect, while others were abused. Paul encouraged slaves to make the most of their situations. Implicitly, he recognized that slavery offends human dignity. (CCC 2414)

Ch 7:25-38 Paul called for a spirit of expectancy and vigilance, as the Church would face trials and hardship. Paul thought that the second coming of Christ was imminent, perhaps in his lifetime, and so he counseled the Corinthians to avoid anything that distracted them from their spiritual preparation and readiness. If unmarried, one should remain unmarried, because the obligations of marriage compete for one’s exclusive attention to God. Celibacy-a state of life embraced by those in consecrated life, both religious and lay; priests, especially in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church; and bishops-allow a person to focus in a more direct, immediate, and exclusive way on God and neighbor. (CCC 506, 672, 914-927, 1579, 1618-1619)

Ch 7:36-38 In the time of Christ, betrothal was a kind of engagement that preceded marriage. While celibacy is a higher state than marriage, most people are called to marriage, which is a true vocation to serve Christ and his Church. (CCC 2349)

Ch 7:39-40 Paul recommended that a widow should consecrate herself to the service of God, If she did choose to remarry, he strongly cautioned her to marry a fellow Christian. (CCC 1601-1602)

Ch 8:1-13 In pagan lands, the markets and vendors often sold the meat of animals that had been sacrificed to pagan gods. Under Jewish Law, this meat was considered unclean, and eating or coming into contact with this meat made one ritually unclean; Christians had concerns about whether they were permitted to eat such meat. Paul explained that, although meat sacrificed to idols was no longer considered unclean under the New Law, the Christians would have to consider the possibility of scandal to others, e.g., if by eating this meat, they caused others to believe that Christians were continuing pagan practices. Paul admonished the Corinthians to avoid eating meat sacrificed to idols whenever there was a possibility of having an adverse effect on the faith of others. (CCC 178, 258, 1789, 2285, 2639)

Ch 8:1-2 All of us possess knowledge: Christianity is based on more than simple knowledge of facts. It is based on our relationship with Christ in the communion of the Church, by which we enter into the divine life of the Blessed Trinity. Through the Church, we have true knowledge of Christ and are called to put into practice all the tenets of the Catholic Faith through deeds of prayer and charity. (CCC 157, 168)

Ch 8:4 An idol has no real existence: Idols are false gods with no power, which, in ancient times, were usually represented in artistic form. Since idolatry is not based on divine law or on God, who gives us the grace to live a moral life, the worship of idols normally leads people to sin. (CCC 2112)

Ch 8:12 Scandal involves an action, whether of commission or omission, that leads another into sin. Therefore, it is a grave offense, especially when committed by a person of authority. (CCC 2284)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Act 3: Witnesses to the End of the Earth

The First Missionary Journey

  • Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13:1–14:28) begins in Cyprus, an island with a significant Jewish population and also the birthplace and home of Barnabas (Acts 4:36).

  • Barnabas, who befriended Paul and brought him to Antioch in Syria, led this first mission to Cyprus, which would have been familiar territory.

  • After traveling across the island of Cyprus and reaching its administrative capital, Paphos, Saul and Barnabas meet a Roman governor named Sergius Paulus.

  • Serving the governor is a false Jewish magician named Bar-Jesus (also named Elymas).

  • Jealous of the interest the Roman governor shows Saul, Bar-Jesus tries to turn him away from Saul and Barnabas.

  • It is at this point in the narrative that Luke begins to refer to Saul as Paul.

  • Many Jews of the first century had both a Hebrew name and a more Hellenistic name for public interaction with Gentiles.

  • Given that Saul’s name in Greek could carry negative connotations (the Greek word saulos refers to the wanton way a prostitute walked), Saul took a new name, and since Sergius Paulus converted due to Saul’s preaching, some have suggested that Saul took Sergius Paulus’ name, Paul.

Paul’s First Missionary Journey

  • Paul condemns Bar-Jesus for his villainy and declares that he will be blind for some time, which immediately happens, after which Sergius Paulus converts.

  • Along with Peter’s conversion of Cornelius, Paul’s conversion of Sergius Paulus means that a second important Roman official has converted to the new faith.

  • Just as Cornelius sheltered Peter and likely sent him off to Rome, now Sergius Paulus supports and sends Paul off to his next destination, Pisidian Antioch in Asia Minor, now central Turkey (not to be confused with Syrian Antioch, where Paul and Barnabas began their journey).

  • Later, the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate will refer to Cornelius and Sergius as the rare examples of Roman aristocratic converts to Christianity.

  • As Paul and Barnabas leave the port of Paphos and sail north to Asia Minor (Turkey), Luke for the first time describes the group as “Paul’s company,” thus indicating that Paul has taken charge (Acts 13:13).

  • They land at Perga and head directly for the city of Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:14).

  • It is odd that they do not stop in any of the villages or cities along the way, especially since they bypass many Jewish communities and synagogues, places Paul and Barnabas typically evangelize.

  • While Pisidian Antioch was a Roman colony and served as the administrative and economic center for its region, this alone would not explain why Paul made straight for this city.

  • The reason for Paul’s uninterrupted journey may have been unearthed by Sir William M. Ramsay (1851-1939), a British biblical scholar who spent much of his life doing archaeological work in the areas where Paul traveled.

  • Ramsay found an inscription in the vicinity of Pisidian Antioch that named Sergius Paulus, and discovered that his family owned large estates just outside of the city and was influential in the political life of Pisidian Antioch.

  • Thus, it would seem that the governor Sergius Paulus directed Paul and Barnabas to his home city, perhaps to share the gospel with his family and friends.

  • This may explain why Paul left Paphos with a “company” of people, given the likely social and commercial interaction between Paphos, where Sergius was governor, and Pisidian Antioch, where he owned land and had business and family contacts.

  • By the second Sabbath, nearly the whole city of Pisidian Antioch gathers to hear Paul.

  • This may not be an exaggeration, as Gentiles and Jews alike would have been interested in hearing the preaching that had won such a noble convert as Sergius Paulus.

  • There is additional archaeological evidence that some scholars suggest links Sergius Paulus to Rome, where he had a home and had earlier worked as an official in the Roman government.

  • There are twenty-three inscriptions in Rome referring to an association that met in the house of Sergius Paulus, and some scholars suggest that the family house of Sergius Paulus was one of the early Christian house churches.

  • Sergius Paulus’ daughter, Sergia Paulla, had a daughter who married Aucilius Glabrio, who served as a consul in A.D. 124, and whose son was executed by Domitian, most likely during Domitian’s persecution of Christians.

  • If it is correct to take this all as evidence of the Christian faith of Sergius Paulus’ family, we can see the lasting impact that Sergius Paulus’ conversion had for generations, leading down to a fourth-generation martyr under Domitian’s persecution, and illustrating how one man’s conversion can forever change the destiny of his descendants.

  • In Pisidian Antioch, Paul begins evangelizing, as was his custom, by teaching in the Jewish synagogue.

  • The Jewish dispersion, which had exiled and scattered Jewish communities all over the Roman world, providentially fostered the early Christian mission.

  • Many Jews, as well as Gentiles who were devout converts to Judaism, follow Paul.

  • The first inroads into the Gentile population, according to Luke’s account in Acts, come largely from Gentiles who are attached to local synagogues and hear Paul preach about Jesus as the messiah and the good news that Gentiles are now welcome to become full members of God’s covenant people by baptism.

  • Many Gentiles in Pisidian Antioch convert, provoking the jealousy of the Jews, who drive Paul out of the city.

(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)

Key Event 68: Witness to the Ends of the Earth (Acts 13:1-28:31)

The continued spread of Christianity leads to churches being founded throughout the Roman Empire. Presbyters, whom today we refer to as priests and bishops, are appointed to oversee these churches (Acts 14:23). Paul takes his missionary activity as far as Rome, the center of the empire, from where it will continue to spread to the ends of the earth.

Key Event 68a: Paul's Three Missionary Journeys (Acts 13:1-14:28, 15:36-18:22, 18:23-21:16)

After his conversion, Paul travels the known world, spreading the Good News of Christ. His three missionary journeys (Acts 13-14, 15:36-18:22, 18:23-20:38) take him across Asia Minor (present-day Turkey), Macedonia, and Greece, preaching the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles.

  • So in The Acts of the Apostles we have a couple of things

  • One is Barnabas and Saul Commissioned

  • This is the church in Antioch

  • Acts 13:2-3, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”

  • Fasting accompanies prayer

  • This is STANDARD for Christians

  • There are many people who have issues when it comes to food in their life

  • They have a broken relationship or a wounded relationship with food

  • So fasting does not necessarily need to always involve fasting from food

  • That’s kind of the normal way

  • BUT...


  • Any kind of thing that we rely upon for comfort or even any kind of thing that we rely upon to function

  • We are not meant to HURT our bodies

  • BUT…

  • Fasting from the SNOOZE BUTTON is a real thing (not for me...I hit that button at least 10 times before I get out of bed😉)

  • Fasting from COFFEE is a real thing (oh good thing because I don’t like coffee...wait that would not make it fasting for me I guess then 🤔)

  • Fasting from ALCOHOL is a real thing and it is called ABSTAINING

  • The idea behind this is that the early Christians are gathered and it seems very very normal for them to FAST AND PRAY

  • It’s not that they are JUST praying

  • They are ALSO fasting

  • God is doing something in that

  • It’s not like fasting coerces God into doing something

  • Like we pray and he doesn’t listen but then you fast and he really listen

  • That’s not the case

  • BUT…

  • When we fast, we are doing something REALLY IMPORTANT in aligning our BODIES with our SPIRITS


  • AND YET…

  • Sometimes, when are bodies are FULL, we kind of don’t feel that NEED

  • BUT…

  • When we EMPTY ourselves

  • When we FAST

  • When we DENY ourselves

  • Sometimes even our bodies feel the spiritual need

  • IN FACT…

  • It sometimes opens us up EVEN MORE to what God has in store for us

  • Fasting is a common Christian practice going all the way back to Jewish times

  • Remember the disciples of John would fast

  • And the disciples of Jesus did not fast

  • When someone asked Jesus why he said, “When the bridegroom is with them, they don’t fast. But the day is coming when the bridegroom is taken from them and then they WILL fast.”

  • So keep that in mind that fasting is a NORMAL part of our existence

  • Remember, if you have a wounded relationship with food, you don’t have to fast from food


  • Acts Ch 13 is also the first time that we have heard of some guy named PAUL

  • Up until now, we have called him SAUL

  • Saul would be his HEBREW NAME

  • Paul would be his ROMAN NAME

  • Even though Peter has already gone to the Gentiles and even though we have already had some of these snapshots, it seems like in Antioch Inpisidia Paul and Barnabas are saying very clearly, “From now on, we will be going to the Greeks. We will be going to the Gentiles.”

  • It’s not like they were EXCLUSIVE to the Gentiles because in the next chapter they will preach in the Jewish synagogue in Iconium

  • So it’s not like they are abandoning the mission to the Jews

  • That is not at all what they did

  • BUT…

  • This switch from Saul to Paul is also kind of an indication of this new evangelistic outreach that brings the Gospel to those who are not raised Jewish, to those who were not part of the Covenant

  • Onward to 1 Corinthians Chs 7 and 8

  • Ch 7 is Concerning Marriage

  • Hopefully this is an encouraging word

  • What St. Paul is really getting at when he was writing to the Corinthians about marriage, he is saying two things

  • One is BE FAITHFUL

  • “If you are married, be faithful. If you are unmarried, be faithful.”

  • “In whatever state you are in, if you are not a slave realize that you are a slave for Christ. If you ARE a slave, realize that you are free in Christ.”

  • So be faithful to your CURRENT STATE

  • Be faithful to the PROMISES THAT YOU MADE

  • Another piece of this is it’s almost like St. Paul is saying that there is no “magic bullet” (silver bullets take out werewolves so….😉)

  • The “magic bullet” would be the thing a lot of us are looking for right around the corner or on the other side of the fence

  • “I’m struggling to follow the Lord right now. I’m struggling to really find this meaning in my life. If I could just get married, that would be great. If I could just be free, that would be great. If I could just be unmarried, that would be great.”

  • A lot of times we look at our state in life and we see the people around us who are in different states of life and we say, “If I could just be where THEY are. If I could just be in that OTHER state of life.”

  • In so many ways here is Paul saying, “No. Wherever you are at just stay there”

  • He makes it clear when he is talking about, “This is from the Lord. This is just my opinion.”

  • But sometimes it is a little mix of BOTH

  • The overarching theme to these chapters has been THERE IS NO MAGIC BULLET



  • Maybe you are married to a believer



  • Continue to strive and love each other well

  • Maybe you are married to someone who is NOT a believer

  • Well, you CAN stay married to them

  • Who knows? Maybe the Lord will save them through your loving them

  • But this idea that I have to go be somewhere else afflicts so many of us

  • GOSH!!

  • “I have to be somewhere else, because if I’m somewhere else then I’ll be holy. Then I’ll belong to the Lord. Then I’ll be able to be the person that God has called me to be.”

  • If there’s one thing that St. Paul is capturing here, amidst the many other important things, because he is saying some important things

  • 1 Corinthians 7:17, “Only, let everyone lead the life which the Lord has assigned to him, and in which God has called him.”

  • This gives us insight into what holiness is

  • Holiness is simply saying YES to God and NEVER CEASING TO SAY YES

  • And uh...yeah

  • Don’t seek that “magic bullet” or that “secret sauce” (unless it’s Chick Fil A sauce because that stuff is heaven sent 😉)

  • In 1 Corinthians Ch 8 St. Paul addresses Food Offered to Idols

  • We talked a little about this before

  • St. Paul is saying, “Yeah, you go to the temple, you offer your animal as sacrifice…”

  • There was the middle part with the cultic prostitution

  • And at the end you have the restaurant off the back of the temple

  • Some people would go there just for the restaurant

  • But where did they get the meat for the restaurant?

  • They got the meat from the animals sacrificed to the false gods

  • So the big issue was were they allowed to go to those restaurants?

  • Ultimately St. Paul says, “You know, it doesn’t really matter if you eat that meat because those gods don’t exist. It’s not like it’s a cursed meat kind of a situation. You can do that. BUT, there are people around you who will see you eat that meat and because their faith is weak, they would say, ‘Wait, there is this Christian eating the meat offered to idols here. Maybe they’re even eating at that restaurant which is connected to this temple prostitution, which is connected to this worship of a false god here in this temple. So maybe they think, ‘Well that’s what Christians do. The Christians can just flip back and forth between worshiping God and worshiping Aphrodite.’ And if that is going to lead someone to sin, then don’t do it. You can eat the meat. No big deal. Whatever. Idols don’t exist. There are no lords. There are no gods. There is ONE Lord. There is ONE God. But if your eating that meat causes someone to sin, then do not do it.”

  • We talked about it before

  • This is the SIN OF SCANDAL

  • It goes to the fact that we are CONNECTED TO EACH OTHER

  • I could say, “Well, it’s my life. I get to do what I want.”

  • St. Paul kind of says, “Ok yeah, you’re right in a certain sense. But in another sense, you are also giving witness. And you are bearing witness to something, bearing witness to someone. You are either helping people around you know and love God better, or we’re hindering the people around us from knowing and loving God better. So yes, while maybe it’s not your responsibility to make sure they have faith, you and I belong to each other. And so we need to watch how we act.”

  • Hopefully that makes sense

  • Because you and I DO BELONG TO EACH OTHER

  • And so we pray for each other




Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and glory. We thank you so much for this day. Thank you for this opportunity to once again hear your Word proclaimed, to be able to come to faith and just come to say, ‘Ok, Lord we trust in you and we can see your mighty works.’ Thank you for letting us live in this time that is called The Age of the Church. Thank you for giving us your Holy Spirit that we can not just hear about and read about the stories of people like Paul and Barnabas, but also we can participate in your story that you continue to write. Lord God, as you sent out Paul and Barnabas, please send us out to proclaim your truth, your existence, your love to people who long to hear about your truth, your existence, and your love. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”