Just like last Wednesday, the readings today again focus on the theme of fasting. There are different ways of understanding this spiritual practice. I would like to share with you two ways that have been helpful in my spiritual journey, especially during this blessed time of Lent.
First, fasting is the experience of emptying ourselves of whatever is blocking the presence of God in our lives. We do it because we want to re-fill ourselves with God being with us. It is easy to fill ourselves with things that take God’s place in our hearts. So, Lent gives us the opportunity to start over again.
Second, fasting should help us to open our eyes and heart to the needs of others. Fasting should allow us to cleanse ourselves of what is surplus in our lives and focus on people who are in real need: the oppressed, the hungry, the homeless, the naked.
We normally fast from food, pleasurable activities such as movies, television, or time with other electronics, and from spending money. However, we should keep in mind that we are giving up these things because we want to be more giving to others in a way which we would have not been if we had not fasted. For example, if we spend a day fasting from food, we could use the money to donate to a food bank or to buy food for someone in need of it. Fasting from watching a favorite television show, could allow us time to spend time with a sick friend (even if only through social media) or reading a scripture passage or writing a letter to someone. Fasting from spending money could give us the opportunity to meet the needs of the unfortunate.
My dear friends, we do not fast just because we have to fast. We do not have to see it as a negative experience. On the contrary, as we empty ourselves and focus on others, we will have a new and better awareness of God working in our lives. I would like to invite you today to think of some way you can empty yourself, let go of something (even time), in this way you can give it to someone else, someone who needs it. As I have said already, fasting should allow us to empty ourselves so that we can be filled with God’s love and God’s presence, which we in turn share with other.