February 20 – Let us celebrate
Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.
Our Bridegroom was taken from us, and we are waiting for His return. We are mourning and now is our time to fast. Many focus on the rules of fasting and will give up stuff because the Church tells us not to eat rather than focus on why we fast during Lent. Fasting is a physical form of denying oneself food to long for or hope for the next meal. Catholics are to fast before every Mass for at least one hour before receiving the Eucharist. We are to participate in Lenten fasting if we are between the ages of 18 and 59 on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and Catholics 14 years and older are to also abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent (does not include meat juices i.e. chicken broth, eggs, milk, butter/margarine and products or condiments made of animal fat). According to the U.S. bishops, fasting is just eating of one full meal, and two smaller meals during the day.
We can also fast by giving something up during Lent. This is something of our choice that is difficult, but realistic (no, the kids can’t give up school). The only days when we are not to fast is on a holy day, the day we partake in the Eucharist. Holy days are days of celebration and not denial. This is why we can have the things we gave up on the Sundays during Lent! (Count it out: its 40 days from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday minus the Sundays).
We fast to give up these things as a holy sacrifice to God. In fasting from food, we are to realize what we are really dependent on, and that is God alone. Adam and Eve were tempted by the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If they would have abstained from that fruit as they were told, we would still be living in the Garden but they broke the fast, therefore bringing sin into the world. They believed that the food had life in it rather than keeping their life in God. Christ is the new Adam, and while tempted by the devil, said, “Man does not live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4). He joined our fasting from food with our spirit again. True fasting is the struggle between weakness and temptation through our hunger and overcoming it through prayer and thankfulness to God.
Ultimately, we are to fast from all sin and never break the fast. We are imperfect because of sin, therefore we fast from food and other things to reveal to ourselves that we are truly dependent on God and not of things of this world. Finally, it is a way to prepare our hearts and minds for the Holy Eucharist, given to us at the Last Supper.
Lent in Action:
Fast from a sin you have been struggling with. Offer up the struggle to God and depend on Him for help.
I offer up my meals and ______ (something given up for Lent) to you, oh Lord, as a spiritual offering in atonement for my sins. I will use this time of fasting to focus on you, rather than the things of this world which will never fill me up. Help me to give up the things that are not pleasing to you, and instead give to others the things that are pleasing to you. I ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.