Joel 2, 12-18; Psalm 51; 2 Cor 5, 20-6,2; Matthew 6, 1-6. 16-18
LENT equals ashes, fasting, fish on Fridays it’s an easy cliché fixed in our minds.
These and many more things come to our minds as we begin this most important period of preparation in the Church year. Though the Church requires fasting and abstinence, these are not the most important things about Lent. Fasting and abstinence are no help to us unless they move us to deeper prayer, bring us to a deeper commitment to the most important truths about our life in Christ: baptism, forgiveness of sins and a share in the Resurrection through conversion of heart and mind.
The Catechism speaks of this conversion, a renewal of baptismal grace and vocation.
Jesus calls to conversion. This call is an essential part of the proclamation of the kingdom: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mk 1:15) In the Church's preaching this call is addressed first to those who do not yet know Christ and his Gospel. Also, Baptism is the principal place for the first and fundamental conversion. It is by faith in the Gospel and by Baptism (Cf. Acts 2:38) that one renounces evil and gains salvation, that is, the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of new life. (CCC 1427)
But what we are doing in the reality of our daily life?
"When You Are Fasting"
In Jesus’ day, all people of faith fasted. Christ did not have to tell people to fast, Jesus only had to remind them what to do when fasting. Christ says, comb your hair, wash your face, dress like you usually dress. Because, God knows when we fast, we need not draw attention to ourselves when fasting.
When our Church says to fast, we are told to eat only one full meal the day of fast, that for the other two meals to eat only enough to sustain our strength. And, no snacking. Abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent. As good Catholics, we carefully follow the rules.
Fasting is about much more. We follow the rules if we have lobster thermidor instead of prime rib. But nothing changes, we still had a great meal.
We want our fasting to turn us toward God. The Psalmist (35:13) said, when I "humbled myself with fasting," my heart turned to prayer. Way back in the seventh century, the spiritual master Bishop Isaac of Nineveh wrote that a person "armed with the weapon of fasting is always afire with zeal" for God.2 That’s exactly what we want. For God to become more and more our intimate friend.
Sometimes well meaning people will tell us to fast from being judgmental, or fast from criticizing others, or fast from gossip, or fast from an hour in front of the TV, and so on and so forth. All good ideas. But, they are not fasting. Fasting means to eat less. To fast, we limit our eating, or we skip a meal, or we do not eat anything one day of the week. As we control our appetites, our soul takes on renewed zeal for God. That’s our goal.
This Lent, check out fasting. With prayer see if you feel prompted by God to start a routine of fasting.