Grace to you!
Yesterday, I shared with you at great length the uniqueness of Christian fast. I hope you found the information useful, no matter how little. I would love to expand on the theme of fasting a little more, by reflecting on the benefits of the Lenten fast or Christian fast in general.
You may have known fasting is one of the three acts of Lent. The other two are prayer and charity giving, what is also called almsgiving.
Fast (fasting) is a beautiful Christian practice. It isn’t always pleasant though, especially when you have to fast from what you really love.
I remember when I was growing up, I heard a wonderful sermon on the benefits of fasting from what we love. At that time, I loved peanuts and usually gulped them like the deer thirsting for flowing water. So, I decided to abstain from nuts for the whole year. I tell you, I craved excessively for the nuts, just like those addicted to coffee crave for it. Addiction is terrible. At times, the craving was like a self-torture. Thank God for His grace, which saw me through, giving me victory over one of my cravings.
As we talk of the spirit of Lenten fast, we realize it has some spiritual by-products, which are really good for us. Fast offers us an opportunity to practice self-control and to develop the skills of self-mastery. It is another way of speaking to the blessings at the core of offering something up for a higher cause.
In the prophesy of Isaiah chapter 58, the prophet speaks eloquently of what constitutes true fast (we have already cited verses 1 to 9a of it yesterday). Verses 9 to 14 of the prophecy show the benefits of the true fast. They include divine glorification of the person, divine guidance, blessing with good things, good health, fruitfulness, restoration, delighting in God, exaltation and abundant provisions. These are some of the benefits of the true fast.
There is a skill-acquisition dimension to true fast also. It trains us in the virtue of self-control. If we can restrain ourselves from the food or drink we crave, we could equally restrain ourselves from other appetites, since the appetite for food springs from the same emotional hub with other appetites. Control over one passion facilitates control over another. Fasting is an effective tool for discipline.
Though the benefit of self-control is moral and social, it helps us in developing our spiritual life too. Isn’t it likely people who can control their appetite can also be very properly disposed to grow in the spiritual life? Thus, self-control is equally a spiritual skill.
In the coming days, I shall share with you other benefits of fasting. For now, you may want to consider what to offer up as part of your Lenten fast? It would be a beautiful thing to do this season.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Reading for Saturday after Ash Wednesday: Is. 58:9b-14; Lk 5:27-32]
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.