Moreover when you fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
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In this spectacle we not only imitate the hypocrites, but also we far outdo them. We sigh loudly and complain bitterly. I know some, well—actually I know many—who, even while neglecting to fast, yet still wear the garments of those who fast. They cloak themselves with a false exoneration worse than their actual sin. “I do this,” they say, “so that I might not offend the many [who are expecting me to fast].” What are you saying? The divine law commands this [fasting], and yet you say you are causing “offense” by obeying? If you practice the inward fast you cause offense, but if you do not fast inwardly [but make a show of fasting outwardly], then quite the opposite, you are not causing offense—is there anything more foolish than this? Why don’t you stop being worse than the hypocrites [you criticize], doubling your own hypocrisy, and instead consider to what extremes this great evil leads? Do you feel any shame now, as we look at the emphasis [of the passage] before us? For Jesus not only says that they put on appearnaces, but he levels [an even more] vehement attack against them when he says, “They disfigure their faces.” The Gospel of Matthew, Homily