In our parish we have been considering various spiritual practices suggested in the book Rediscover Catholicism by Mathew Kelly. There are seven practices and one we have not said anything about – Fasting.
What many Catholics do not know is that the Church still has official days of fasting. Today is one of them. Good Friday is another. All fridays in the year we are supposed to fast from meat. In Canada we have permission to substitute some other sacrifice, but I imagine many just do no sacrifice at all.
Why have we lost this tradition in our faith? I think we are all a little cynical about fasting – even in the Gospel Jesus talks about fasting as if it is something the hypocrites do. We are not really sure why we do it and what benefit it has, it seems like those who did it are just following a rule or trying to show off.
Our readings today call us to fast in way that is sincere. What is an honest fast? Why do we fast in the first place?
1) We fast to show our love for Jesus. I asked the children in the spanish Catechism class “Por que hacemos sacrificios en cuaresma?” Una nina contesto – “Porque Jesus sacrifice por nosotros en la cruz” Why do we sacrifice? Jesus sacrificed himself for us. Jesus did not just give up Facebook or chocolate bars – he gave us his very breath, every drop of blood, his whole life. When we sacrifice, we remember his sacrifice.
2) We fast to strengthen our wills. If we cannot say “NO” to a cup of coffee, if we cannot say no to watching that next episode on Netflix – how will we ever say no when we face a real temptation? A real test of our integrity? A good fast is one that is hard to say no to – a fast that tests and strengthens our will.
3) We fast to remind ourselves what is really importnat. Jesus says “Man does not live on bread alone” We convince ourselves that certain things are necessary in life – but we can live 40 days without potatoe chips, we can live 40 days without beer, We won’t die without Television, or instagram or twitter. But we will die without the Word of God, without prayer, We cannot live without the Holy Mass or confession. These are truly the most important things in life. When fasting we must think of those things in life we think we cannot live without – then live without these things.
We begin this solemn fast. Let us rember the sacrifice of Jesus, let us conquer our passions, let us destroy our idols and turn to the one alone who gives life.