Saturday, February 25, 2012


"Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."(Matthew 4:4)

The gospel of Matthew yesterday raises the question of fasting. Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast". (Matthew 9:14-15)
As we enter Lent and begin the obligatory Ash Wednesday Fast and Friday fasts from meat it is worth revisiting the importance of such an old tradition.  We have evidence of the usefulness of fasting from the book of Jonah.  God shared with Jonah that he would destroy the city of Nineveh.  However,  when the people of Nineveh repented and began fasting God was merciful and saved the city.  This shows us that we can disarm the anger and wrath of God for our sins by sincere fasting from the heart.  To deny oneself for Love of God brings both forgiveness and blessings. 

According to Saint Alphonsus De Ligouri, "God has given us the goods of the earth, not only that we may enjoy them, but also that we may have the means of ... showing him our love by the voluntary renunciation of his gifts, and by the oblation of them to his glory. To abandon, for God’s sake, all worldly enjoyments, has always been the practice of holy souls."
We are governed either by the flesh or the spirit.  Galatians 5:17 states:“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh for these are opposed to each other...” If we choose to abide by the flesh we withdraw ourselves from God.  However, when we choose to deny the flesh the Spirit begins to govern our bodies and we seek direction from above.  The flesh does not go quietly and while one begins to fast there is a struggle but as the fast is continued the flesh finally gives into the Spirit. Scripture tells us that "It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is profitable for nothing."(John 6:63) How good is our Lord to share with us a tool, fasting out of love for Him, that helps us be led by the Spirit.  
We were given a Free Will that we might be able to choose how we are to direct ourselves.  Jesus through example embraced His passion for love of us.  We may not be called to be physically crucified on a cross but we can choose to reject the things of the flesh.
Galatians 5:24 “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires.”

Suggestions for Fasting more than the minimum prescribed by the Church.
A thread of common practices of fasting exists within the Church. The most prominent of which was fasting on bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays.  Fasting to this extent may seem excessive, but prior to the 20th century, this form of fasting was commonplace in the Church.
According to Saint Peter the Hieromartyr: “Let no one fault us that we fast on Wednesday and Friday, according to a custom rightly commanded by tradition."  Wednesday on account of His being betrayed and Friday on account of His passion.
Likewise Saint Faustina wrote in her diary in1938:  "On three days a week, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, there will be a strict fast [on bread and water]...During the two great fasts, ember days and vigils, the food will consists of a piece of bread and some water, once a day." 
As Jesus fasted from food for 40 days in the desert he was tempted by satan.  The Lord is showing us something from this encounter and that is fasting is important when confronting evil.  Although His body was hungry his Spirit was strong and he responds to satan's taunts for Him to change stones into bread by saying, 
“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’(Matthew 4:4) 
 Another thing one can contemplate is the extent of Jesus’ fast.  He abstained from all food. Fasting out of love allows the body to do things it normally wouldn’t be able to do.  We might not be able to skip a meal without feeling sick or some may develop a headache if they eat too many carbohydrates.  However,  when you fast out of Love for the Lord these feelings usually don’t happen.  The ability to fast is a gift.  If you cannot fast for some reason pray for the gift of fasting.  If you cannot fast on bread and water then consider fasting from something else.  St. John Vianney often fasted from sleep.

For those of us who can fast might we try beginning to fast more than the minimum fast prescribed by the Church.  Could we begin fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays on unlimited bread and water out of love for Jesus.  
In a special way I pray that the children’s rosary and all associated will be given the gift of fasting.   I also pray that those who receive this gift will choose to use it for the Glory of God.  

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