Fasting is so much more than being hungry…
We read much about fasting in today’s scripture readings, one of the three major practices of the Lenten season: prayer, almsgiving and fasting. As we ponder the importance of fasting this Lenten season, we should be asking what motivates me to fast, to take this step of personal sacrifice? It should obviously not be for selfish reasons or personal gain, “look at me and how holy I am because I can fast!” Rather fasting is about letting go and letting God! Placing all our confidence and trust that God will provide. It is about letting go of our personal attachments to not only material possessions, but also to those things that bind us, oppress us or hold us back. Fasting is an exercise in freeing us from all that possesses us and hopefully leads us to a new place of wholeness, integration and ultimately toward holiness.
So perhaps you have given something up for Lent (I am trying to give up watching television). How will your life be different because you have made this sacrifice? What will you do with this new found freedom? (for me this will be the time I sat and watched TV) I hope to dedicate this time to doing some spiritual reading and additional prayer. So while on the surface giving something up seems sort of silly, the depth of such a practice can really impact one’s perspective of personal gratification and what brings one joy. It provides an opportunity to do some internal examination and to explore what is it that I want to do with the time God has graced me with. Time is a precious gift and we should not waste it for personal gain, but rather for the building up of the Kingdom of God. May we be faithful to the practices of this Lenten season, especially to our promises of fasting. That by fasting we might come to understand the hungry, the tired, the lonely, the isolated of our world.
You might find a website being promoted by the General Administration of the Society of Mary (Marianists) during the Lenten Season of interest. It is entitled Forty Days with the Least, and it highlights the 40 countries at the bottom of the Human Development Index. This year in particular they are focusing on the issue of health care in these nations. Reading and following the reflections country by country may be a good source of reflection for your Lenten fast.