Why do we fast?

Posted by James Hahn on

Luke 5: 33-39

In a letter to his brothers in the Society of the Servants of the Poor, Saint Jerome Emiliani writes the following: "In his kindness, our Lord wished to strengthen your faith, for without it, as the evangelist points out, Christ could not have performed many of his miracles. He also wished to listen to your prayer, and so he ordained that you experience poverty, distress, abandonment, weariness and universal scorn....he desires to include you among his beloved sons...for this is the way he treats his friends and makes them holy. ...he is asking you to grow continually in your confidence in him alone and not in others."

God often deprives us of the things that we love in order to pull us closer to Himself. As a gentle Father, He is removing that which is separating us from Him. When faced with these losses, with these crosses, we are given two choices that Saint Jerome goes on to mention, "either you will forsake your faith and return to the ways of the world, or you will remain steadfast in your faith and pass the test."

In today's Gospel Jesus tells the disciples, and us, that there will be a time when we will experience the loss of His presence. For the disciples this would be a real, physical absence. For us, more often, it is a spiritual absence or a dryness in prayer. It is at these times that we must hold fast to that hope that is within us. God is testing us and asking, "do you still love me even when you don't "feel" me present? Do you still love me even when the sweetness of my grace seems to have vanished?"

Fasting has the effect of making us hungry for the Lord. It is a reminder that "man shall not live on bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." It is a reminder that the things of this world do not satisfy, only God can satisfy.  It helps us strengthen our resolve.  When we fast we freely choose to give up something licit and something we may enjoy.  By doing so we are strengthened to be able to endure those privations we would probably not have chosen given the chance.

The bridegroom has been taken away from us and so we fast. He has deprived us of himself in order that our faith may grow. But our hunger must not make us weak. Our hunger must not make us lose hope for this is the way he treats his friends and makes them holy.  Our spiritual life will be full of ups and downs.  There will be times where we feel as though the bridegroom is in the seat next to us holding our hand.  There will also be times where we feel as though the bridegroom has gone away never to return.  Let us resolve to love the Lord equally during these seasons and to remind ourselves that there will come a day when the bridegroom, when Jesus, will be with us for eternity never to depart again.

I must tell you about my retreat for [religious] profession. Far from experiencing any consolation, complete aridity — desolation, almost — was my lot. Jesus was asleep in my little boat as usual. - St. Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul

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How to get better at prayer.
  1. Set a prayer appointment - Set a time on your calendar each day to meet and speak with God.
  2. Slowly increase your prayer time. - Don't jump in with an hour right from the get-go.  Build up your "tolerance" so to speak.
  3. Commit - to praying and slowly increasing your prayer time for 30 days.  Mark off the days on your calendar.  If you miss a day, jump right back in, don't give up.
  4. Pray - praying is talking to God, it's spending time with your attention focused on Him.  I enjoy spending time with my children regardless of their level of development.  God is the same way.  Spend time praying as best you can.  Use formal prayers if you want or simply speak in conversation.  Don't forget to listen
  5. Journal - Our newly revised 4 Simple Steps to Better Scripture Meditations: Guide, Workbook, and Journal walks you through 4 easy steps that will help you go deeper in your prayer life.  It includes 31 days of workbook and journal pages too!
  6. Read other good books about how to pray better - Prayer PrimerDeep Conversion, Deep PrayerTime for GodThe Spiritual Life: A Comprehensive Guide to Catholics Seeking Salvation.
(This post may have an affiliate link.  By clicking on this link I may earn money by your purchase.  I do not recommend anything I haven't read or used personally and believe is of value to you the reader.  Thank you)

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