I had an issue with the Friday after Ash Wednesday. I mean, we just did the whole “no meat” thing two days ago and now we have to do it again?
Then, I would remember that at least we don’t have to fast and I would find a little bit of consolation in that. At least we don’t have to fast.
So, of course, today’s readings have to do with fasting.
Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the three pillars of Lent. Through these penitential practices, we prepare our hearts for the Lord’s Resurrection and He invites us to return to Him. Let’s take a deeper look at fasting, though.
If you were to poll most Catholics, their view of fasting would probably be the stereotypical response of “two small meals a day that together don’t add up to one large meal.” They would also take solace in the fact that fasting is only required on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Much like I did, until my view of fasting changed.
Throughout high school, I found myself heavily involved in retreat ministry. As a part of various retreat teams, we would take up different sacrifices, keeping in mind the sacrifices that future retreatants make in order to attend the retreat.
It was here that I learned fasting can take a different form. Some of our various fasts included technology, social media, snacking, music, etc. It increased our discipline, reminded us of a greater purpose and reordered our desires to the Lord.
Most recently, as a youth minister, I found myself forming a retreat team that chose a particularly difficult sacrifice. For the duration of our formation, the teens decided that the only beverage we would consume was water. That meant no coffee, tea, pop, energy drinks, juices, and others. When the teens pitched this idea, I panicked. I am a hard-working professional adult with two very consuming, demanding jobs. What was I going to do without my morning coffee?
When I panicked at the mere thought without coffee, I realized that my priorities were disordered and saw it as an invitation to return to the Lord on a more personal level. There were MANY days I struggled but I found other ways to “fast,” to continue the sacrifice.
The second half of today’s first reading is titled “Authentic Fasting that Leads to Blessing.” Isaiah pitches many different ideas and ways of fasting, such as sharing bread with the hungry and clothing the naked.
But wait? Haven’t we heard these before? In the corporal works of mercy? Those don’t exactly sound like fasts. Giving out of the surplus of our food to the needy is indeed a fast. Same with giving out of the surplus of our material wealth. These forms of fasting are different but none less important.
A genuine, true fast coming from the heart will reform one’s way of life. It’s a lesson I’m still learning and one I hope you will learn as well.