“The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Matthew 9:15b
The Bible doesn’t say we might fast, but that we will fast. It can be very hard to deny our flesh, especially if we don’t do it very often. What is the purpose of fasting? One of the reasons for fasting is to strengthen our spirits so that we can learn to live with less and rely more on God. Fasting shows God that we want Him more than we want whatever it is we are fasting from and we can grow closer to Him as we deny ourselves. Fasting also adds power to our prayers and helps us hear more easily from God. Most of us fast during Lent as fasting is one of the three pillars of our Lenten practice. We usually “give up” our favorite food or drink but we can also give up other things.
Fr. Mike Schmitz suggests that we ask ourselves what things keep us from being present to Jesus and being present to others, and that those are the things we need to fast from. Obviously there are too many to mention, but a few would be: Facebook, checking your phone (especially when you are with others), watching TV, playing video games, keeping your head stuck in a book, or being a workaholic. Too much of any activity takes us away from the Lord and from others. I even have a hard time walking away from a puzzle once I start it! A time of fasting helps us find balance with these things and helps us grow in self-control.
When we fast it helps to fast for a specific intention. At least for me it makes it easier to stick with it. Popcorn is my all-time favorite snack food which I eat nearly every day. It has even been my dinner on occasion! I rarely give it up, but I gave it up for our daughter Sr. Cecilia Rose on her 30 day retreat one year. I was tempted nearly every day, but my love for her and the desire to offer up even a small sacrifice to help her won out every time and I was able to complete the fast.
Along with the other two pillars of Lent – prayer and almsgiving – our Lent can be rich indeed as we draw closer to God and closer to others. Plus we can consider fasting even when Lent is over. Many people still fast from meat every Friday and some religious communities fast from TV, email, snacks and rich foods. Some even fast from hot water and beds! Let God guide you to fast in the way that will best help you grow in your faith all year round.
“Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting…” Joel 2:12