Wednesday, March 9, 2011
“But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting…And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” Matthew 6: 18
Lent is a season of the Liturgical Year that we can really love to hate. Forty days of fasting, abstinence and almsgiving can leave us cranky and sour. But not if we really know their purpose and we embrace the Truth found in these traditional Lenten practices.
So what is the point of making our bodies hungry, causing us to be in some physical and mental pain for a day? I mean, isn’t that a bit archaic? To be sure. Fasting is a spiritual practice that goes back thousands of years. Jesus Himself did it numerous times. The most famous time was right before He began His public ministry. Jesus went out into the desert and fasted for forty days. The Bible says that at the end, he was hungry. I love the Bible. Really, after forty days of fasting, He was hungry? No way!? Don’t tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor. The question is: why did Jesus fast? Was He some sort of New Age guru doing a yogo-like practice of cleansing His body? Of course not. Jesus fasted for the same reason we are asked to fast in Lent today, 2,000+ years later. He did it for strength. And so should we.
Fasting affords us the opportunity, if done in and with prayer, to rely more on the presence of God within us. We learn to “hunger” for God and His grace at least as much as we do our next meal on a day we are fasting. Think about when you have ever been really hungry or thirsty (and for Americans this is nothing compared to real hunger around the world). You would have done just about anything to get your next meal or drink, wouldn’t you? Are we willing to do anything to receive the grace of Jesus in our lives?
Do we live lives that are hungry for God? Or are we so filled-up on the things of
this world (even the good things), that God is more of an afterthought than our most deliberate thought? When we are hungry and thirsty, food and drink become our most important thought and getting them become our all-consuming passion. Wouldn’t it be nice if our practice of fasting this Lent could develop in us this same desire for Christ and His Kingdom? The next time you fast and feel hungry, ask God for the grace to want Him just as bad—if not more, than the food you desire at that moment.
Dear Jesus, I want to deliberately desire You every day, more than anything else in my life or this world. Help me to strive for you with all of my heart and soul. Give me the grace to fast during this Lenten Season, so that I may desire You more perfectly. Amen.