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Fasting to Pay for Sin

Question: I was raised in the Catholic Church and never was I taught that fasting would pay for my sins. We do not fast to make satisfaction for our sins. I was saved when Jesus Christ died on the cross. And I was also taught that the only way to Heaven is through Jesus Christ!

Answer: I praise the Lord for your confidence in the Lord. Christ achieved salvation on the cross, and He alone is the way to the Father. I am also glad that you do not consider fasting as a means to pay for your sins. According to the Bible, fasting is a beneficial spiritual discipline, especially when a Christian is seeking the face of the Lord in time of trouble and distress. Never does the Bible suggest that fasting pays for sin. The price for our redemption is the blood of Christ.

However, dear friend, the Roman Catholic Church officially teaches that fasting is a means to make satisfaction for sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church includes fasting as one form of penance (paragraph 1434). Also, speaking about the sacrament of penance, the Council of Florence teaches that the penitent is required to do three actions, firstly contrition, secondly oral confession and thirdly satisfaction. "The third [action of the penitent] is satisfaction for the sins according to the judgment of the priest, which is mainly achieved by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving."

In the Catholic religion, when a sinner asks God for forgiveness, he is still required to receive punishment for his sins, as can be seen from the following two quotations:

  1. "Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin; he must 'make satisfaction for' or 'expiate' his sins. This satisfaction is also called 'penance'." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph. 1459). (The word 'expiate' means to extinguish guilt, to make amends).

  2. "Let [the penitents] keep in mind that the satisfaction imposed by them is meant not merely as a safeguard for the new life and as a remedy to weakness, but also as a vindicatory punishment for former sins" (Council of Trent, Session 14, Chapter 8).

Clearly, the Roman religion prescribes prayer, fasting and almsgiving as forms of penance - a vindicatory punishment for sins.

I sincerely hope that you can see the inconsistency between your faith in Christ and the Roman Catholic insistence that you must make satisfaction for your sins by penance. The Bible declares that Jesus "by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified." Since Christís offering on the cross perfects the believers, any human attempt to offer something more for their sins is both superfluous and offensive to the blood of Christ. "Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin" (see Hebrews 10:14-18).

Christians fast and pray to seek God's help and guidance, but we wouldn't dream of relying on these works to make satisfaction for our sins. Also, Christians give alms to help the poor and needy, but we do not consider this privilege as a vindicatory punishment! We joyfully give to the poor because God gave us the greatest Gift of all! The Son of God is our propitiation, that is, by His sacrifice on the cross, He appeased the righteous anger of God for our sins. Assured that our sins are forgiven, we are free to pursue righteousness, and do good to others for no other motive but to the glory of our gracious and loving Father.

© Dr Joseph Mizzi