Skip to comments.The Key to True Fasting
Posted on 02/22/2012 7:40:57 PM PST by Salvation
Required fasting is almost non-existent in the Catholic Church today. Even the two days where fasting is required for those over 18 and under 60, it is really a mitigated fast of two small snack-like meals and one regular sized meal (no snacks in between now!). Not really a fast at all. A truer fast (going without food for the whole day) is practiced by some today as a personal discipline and it is laudable if a person is able.
Yet, even the mitigated fast is hard for many as are most bodily disciplines in our soft western world. We may think we just have to learn to be tougher and, by the power of our own flesh pull it off. I have no doubt that simple will power can in fact pull off a fast, especially the mitigated one. But even a non-believer can diet and fast. What we must seek is true fasting, spiritual fasting that is far richer than merely abstaining from food.
In the Gospel for Friday of this week, Jesus gives an important key to true spiritual fasting. Lets read:
The disciples of John [the Baptist] approached Jesus and said, Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast? Jesus answered 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. (Matt 9:14-15)
Notice the pattern. First comes the (wedding) feast, then comes the fast. What does this mean? Well, consider the wedding feasts of Jesus time. They often went on for several days, even a week. During this time there was food, feasting, family, fellowship, and did I mention food? Lots of it, with wine too! It was a time of satiation. But eventually this time of feasting ended and by that time, people were filled. Theyd had enough food for a while, and now fasting of a sort made sense, it happened naturally without a lot of effort. What does this teach us and why does Jesus use this image regarding fasting?
Simply put, if you want to have the capacity to fast spiritually and truly you have to experience the wedding feast of the Lamb of God. In this great wedding feast which we are to experience through prayer, scripture and especially the Liturgy we are to be filled with Christ. We are to encounter him and feast abundantly on his Word, his Body and Blood and to rejoice with him exceedingly. And when this happens we are authentically equipped to fast.
At some point the groom is taken from us. That is to say, the Mass ends and were back to dealing with the world and its demands. Or perhaps we enter a penitential season, or perhaps we go through a difficult time where God seems distant, or we struggle with temptation. And times like that, a fast of sorts is before us. But we are able to do so and are spiritually equipped to do it since we have been to the Wedding feast and feasted with the Groom. Having done this the world and its charms mean less. We are filled with Christ now and we simply need less of the world. This is true fasting.
But let me ask you, Have you met Christ and been to the wedding feast with him? One of the sad realities in parish life and in the Church is that there are many people who have never really met Jesus Christ. They have heard about him and know about him, but theyve never really encountered him powerfully in prayer or the Mass. They are faithful to be sure. They are sacramentalized but unevangelized. They know about Jesus, but they dont know him. The liturgy to them can be, and often is, lifeless, a ritual to be endured rather than an encounter with Jesus Christ. Instead of being at a wedding feast, the Mass is more like a visit to the doctors office. The majority of the Mass for them is a waiting room experience. Finally, up to get the medicine (Holy Communion), which is great, because now it means the Mass is almost over!
Personal prayer from many isnt much better. Another ritual, say some prayers, and be done with it. God is really more of a stranger and fasting is just another rule to follow, more out of obedience to avoid punishment, than out of love which seeks purification.
The disciples of John seem to have been of this sort. They were tough and self-disciplined. They knew how to fast! But it was a fasting of the flesh not the Spirit. The only way to truly fast in a spiritual way is to have been to the wedding feast and feasted with the Jesus the great bridegroom of the Church. Then having been filled with every good and perfect gift true fasting can begin.
And what is true fasting? It is a fasting that no longer needs what the world offers in large amounts. We need less of the world for we have found a better prize: Jesus and his Kingdom. Who needs all that food, booze, power, money, baubles, bangles and beads? In the words of an old song: Id rather have Jesus than silver and gold. You may have all this world! Just give me Jesus!
We can only say this if we have really met the Lord and been satisfied by him. Only then can true fasting ensue. As you my expect, meeting Jesus is more than an event. It is a gradual and deepening awareness of him and his power in my life and in the liturgy. Make sure you dont miss the wedding feast for it is the key to the truest fasting of all.
WHAT TO GIVE UP . . .
Give up complaining. . . . . . . .focus on gratitude.
Give up pessimism. . . . . . . . . become an optimist.
Give up harsh judgments . . . think kindly thoughts.
Give up worry. . . . . . . . . . . . . trust Divine Providence.
Give up discouragement. . . . .be full of hope.
Give up bitterness. . . . . . . . . . turn to forgiveness.
Give up hatred. . . . . . . . . . . . . return good for evil.
Give up negativism . . . . . . . . .be positive.
Give up anger. . . . . . . . . . . . . .be more patient.
Give up pettiness. . . . . . . . . . . become mature.
Give up gloom. . . . . . . . . . . . . enjoy the beauty that is all around you.
Give up jealousy. . . . . . . . . . . . pray for trust.
Give up gossiping. . . . . . . . . . .control your tongue.
Give up sin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . turn to virtue.
Give up giving up. . . . . . . . . . . hang in there!
The Best Kind of Fasting
Conversion Through Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving [Lent]
Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Fast-Family observance Lenten season [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
Lenten Fasting or Feasting? [Catholic Caucus]
THE TRUE NATURE OF FASTING (Catholic/Orthodox Caucus)
The Three Practices of Lent: Praying, Fasting. Almsgiving
Lent: A Time to Fast >From Media and Criticism Says President of Pontifical Liturgical Institute
Give it up (making a Lenten sacrifice)
The Holy Season of Lent -- Fast and Abstinence
Lent and Fasting
I’ve gone 72 hours with only water a few times. I don’t do it for religion though. I do it to make my innards healthier. Giving your GI tract a break from food now and then seems to cure lots of issues. At least for me it seems to. It seems to make my joints feel better too. I have no idea why.
At least for me it seems to. It seems to make my joints feel better too. I have no idea why.
I have found that not eating concentrated carbs and not eating any of the nightshade family (tomato, potato, eggplant, all peppers, and many hot peppers) has really helped my joints:
When I give up tomatoes for Lent all my aches and pains go away.
Fasting is good for the body, whether for religious reasons or not. Much of what we eat is not strictly necessary, it is either a socialized habit or in some cases an actual addiction. Fasting past three days breaks a lot of this.
Do you make your own juices then?
No, but I drink normal fruit juices from the grocery store, tea, and water.
Also, if people find out that you are fasting, like friends, that is the only time I have to be persistent, because they will eventually start trying to feed me. That gets irritating, but I use it as an excercise in disipline.
I am abstaining from alcohol for Lent.
Wish me luck!
I like those!!
Just being able to eat simple is a good start.
Having just read your posting, when it comes to the social events, for me, this coming Saturday, going to a baby shower in the early afternoon. Will have to do a limited fast this Saturday.
The one supplement I have found that really helps my arthritis pain is Boswellia. It took almost thirty days before I noticed a difference, but now I hardly ever take any pain pills.
Even what the Church presents is at least the bare basics for fasting.
Great insight on fasting. Had to remind my daughter last night as she was looking for her “snack” about fasting. But, she says, “I’m hungry.” Told her to focus on the crucifix and look what Our Lord did for us. She did and the hunger soon subsided. Self-sacrifice is the key.
Some tomatos are more complicated than others.