Grace to you!
Perhaps, using a metaphor of water conservation could be a good way to start this reflection on fasting.
I love long showers. It feels good. However, the need to conserve water is a matter of justice. Somewhere, somehow, I suffer a guilty conscience if I stay in the shower for too long.
For a higher cause, we could offer up our conveniences, our comfort, and our delicacies. Sometimes, it's a duty of justice. Many other times, it is an act of charity and spiritual growth.
Are you thrown off by the idea of fasting? Does it sound too puritan and ascetic to your liking? Understanding the rationale for fasting could help you appreciate the practice.
A little touch of a biblical story may help here. Matthew 9:14-17 records how the disciples of John the Baptist were concerned that the Lord Jesus' disciples weren't fasting as expected. The Lord replied that a time would come "when the bridegroom is taken away," then they will fast.
The bridegroom here refers to the Lord Jesus himself. To be with the Lord is to have the ultimate need of the human hearts met. The early apostles and disciples did not need to do something extra to be with Jesus since he was already present physically with them. The Lord is the ultimate good we desire. It is only when the bridegroom is taken away; that is, when he goes back to the Father, we could return to the practice of fasting.
We do so, however, with a faith-centered disposition and a holy intention. As a faith-centered disposition, we are not magically using our fasting to make God come to us or manipulate God. It is buffoonery to think we could. Rather, it is so that our hearts would be molded in prayerful sentiments, be more disposed for the Lord to abide with us always.
As a holy intention, we allow our hearts to align with the intent of Christ. It is to offer something for a higher cause. It is a sacrifice. Thus, the raison d' être for fasting is in anticipation of something. It's in anticipation of the bridegroom and in anticipation of what flows from the bridegroom.
Fasting is to offer up food that you crave for a time, for something considered of higher value. It doesn't matter what it may be. It has to be of higher value and relevance to you.
Let us return to the imagery of the drought and water shortage and the need to conserve water. We restrain from watering our lawns or staying in the shower too long because we want to conserve water for the common good. This intention is akin to the spirit of true fasting. The common good is of a higher value than watering your lawn or wasting fifty gallons of water for your bath when you need only ten gallons of water.
When you offer up food because you want to save for those who have no food in your community or the world's poorest regions, you are really practicing true fast.
How about offering your delicious meal for a time of prayer for spiritual growth? Spiritual growth has a touch of wealth more valuable than a marinated steak. Spiritual growth is a higher good, more valuable than any food whatsoever.
Adding fasting to your intercessory prayers could clear the way for answered prayers for those intentions. I reflected on the need for intercessory prayers a couple of days ago. Some petitions are answered when fasting is added to your prayers.
Finally, fasting has a way of keeping the mind and the body together, by making light our weight, so our spiritual self is at its best, balance.
In the end, we realize that, after all, this burger for me today isn't as valuable as a cup of milk for the poor child in Sudan who hasn't eaten for three days.
I pray that when we fast, we do with a faith-centered disposition and a holy intention.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Saturday, Week 13, Ordinary Time: Amos 9:11-15; Matthew 9:14-17]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.