The Transforming Power of Fasting

Fasting is the third Lenten discipline. It is more than a means of developing self-control because the pangs of hunger remind us of our hunger for God. In the first reading on the Friday after Ash Wednesday, the prophet Isaiah shows that fasting is meant to transform our behaviors and attitudes in order to please God. "This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own" (Is 58:6-7). Fasting therefore is linked to the stewardship of caring for those forced to fast by their poverty, economic injustices and political structures. The savings that come from our fasting is meant to be given to the cause of our less fortunate brothers and sisters otherwise it is of no use at all if we simply keep those savings! Furthermore, fasting is linked to living out our baptismal commitment as disciples and stewards. It helps us to be focused on the vision, mission and purpose of Jesus Christ. Fasting transforms us and supports efforts to alleviate the suffering of those in need.

Abstaining from meat was traditionally linked to the poor, who could seldom afford meat for their meals. It can do the same today if we remember the purpose of abstinence and embrace it as a spiritual link to those whose diets are sparse and simple. That should be the goal we set for ourselves—a sparse and simple meal. Abstaining from meat while eating lobster misses the whole point! While giving up food and drink or eating less in Lent is good, we may also decide to “fast” from our negative addictive behaviors and attitudes towards people and certain things during Lent. This may include giving up certain habits like self-seeking, the desire to be a control freak, gossiping, swearing and pornography. One can also fast completely from watching the TV for 40 days and 40 nights. During this age of electronic gadgets, we might also fast from the use our cell phones and texting, so that we may use that time to “text to God”; to relate to God in prayer.

 

 Monsignor John S. Mbinda