Fasting is an invitation to all who have the right intention and committed to the practice.
“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance , so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees who is hidden will repay you.” (Matthew 6: 16-18).
This is the teaching about fasting. Jesus exhorted his disciples and those people who want to fast. When you fast, you don’t tell and show people that you are fasting for this is between you and your God. Let no one know that you are fasting. As fasting is an option to be taken by any individual who has his own reason and resolve on why he fasts.
Fasting is not only for Christians but also practiced by other great religions, faith, systems and traditions; like Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Cosmic Religions, and the like. Fasting is one of the three pillars of Jewish piety, namely prayer, almsgiving, fasting; the same with our Moslem brothers and sisters, the long period of fasting or Ramadan is one of the five pillars of islam.
For Christians, our Lord Jesus does not deny the value of fasting if it is done for the right intentions and motives; he even practiced it. Fasting is not purely an external exercise done only for the sake of tradition or to fulfill the required law but really to own it as one’s personal choice taken.
For the common folks, fasting is understood as a way of purification, a cleansing rite. To cleanse oneself from dirt and guilt and so one engages with fasting. Fasting is also a way of penance and sacrifice. It is a prayerful state of lightness when one is free from the unnecessary needs and things in life. It is also part of self-discipline, self-control, and transcendence.
Fasting requires self-control. It is a state of being mindful of the total self. Control from excessive consumption and enjoyment from food, whims, caprices, and other “man-made needs.” Fasting purges one from the toxic of losing one’s sense of what is important and necessary in life. Fasting as a discipline is a healthy way to keep sound one’s mind, body, and spirit.
Fasting is a ritual, a practice that cleanses. When one feels hunger, he or she thinks and feels it physically and undergoes the pain or agony of being hungry, of not being able to fill one’s needs and desires. The Church encourages the faithful to fast and abstain; for tradition and practicality allows, fasting is required from ages 18 to 60 and abstinence from age 14. Fasting and abstinence cleanse our thoughts and desires.
Fasting is not only in relation to control and limit of food intake as it is commonly understood and associated. Fasting can also be done in other aspects and areas of life; like, excessive and extravagant spending to shopping spree, excessive drinking and smoking, excessive accumulation of unnecessary and expensive electronic gadgets, jewelries, properties, travels and the like. Fasting from passing unfounded judgments and destructive criticism that destroy other people’s lives; fasting if practiced will help the individual to rethink, reflect and realize what are the fundamentals in life from the extras and unimportant.
Fasting is a joyful experience. After having gone through the experience of being hungry and thirsty momentarily, and given more time to reflect and be convinced of the invitation to change, we are helped by the practice in our ongoing project of self-awareness and self-control. One becomes capable and equipped to know more about one’s self. Knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses, one’s reaches and limits will lead one to know one’s ultimate control over the pressures of different forms of appetite, allurements, and temptations.
Fasting once experienced is tremendous joy as it results to self-control and pure conscience.
Fasting is a way towards holiness. Fasting has a purpose. It is not only hype, or seasonal, or something extraordinarily done by only a few. For Christians, fasting is a holy exercise if this done and is nurtured with prayer and reflection. Jesus prayed and fasted for forty days in the wilderness, which had made him firm and strong from temptations. During this season of Lent, we are invited to fast as Jesus asked his disciples to fast with no one knowing it, to fast not for a show but to have an authentic intention and real sacrifice.
Fasting should lead to genuine conversion expressed in concrete works of mercy and charity. Conversion or transformation is really the fruit of fasting, to be transformed in love. We fast and share the fruits of our fast. Fasting is also an expression of faith, solidarity, and generosity.
Moreover, Blessed John Paul II saw the purpose of fasting “in solidarity with the hungry, sensitivity of the sufferings of others and consequently greater generosity to respond to their needs.” And this would be the result of real conversion and transformation; and this reality is a life- long process. Fasting is not just a one-shot deal event but an exciting time to be undertaken not only during the season of Lent or during days of obligation to fast (Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays of Lent), but any day and anytime of the year. It is an invitation freely offered to all.
Brothers and sisters, we are invited to pause, reflect truthfully and ask ourselves:
Do I practice fasting secretly or openly? Do I fast lovingly?
Is fasting a joyful option for me or a burden/ requirement to carry- out?
Does fasting make me more charitable and generous?
Do I see God in my prayerful fasting and be able to know the will of God for me today?
Prayer: Loving God, in this season of Lent; may you help us in our self-control and self-transcendence so that we may only value what are the significantly essentials in our lives. Open our hearts and minds to the joy of fasting as this make us more receptive to the will of the Spirit in us. Bless our aspirations and undertakings as a family and community so that we can celebrate the paschal mystery of our salvation. Amen.