Why Do Catholics – Part 16 – Fast?

FastingWhy aren’t you eating that, Mommy?  Why can’t you have chocolate?  How we answer our kids questions about fasting can shape the way they will approach fasting in their own adult lives.

As Catholics, we have the beautiful practice of fasting – for prayer intentions, during Lent, before the Eucharist.  But what is the reason behind our fasting?  Sometimes, we can fast for the wrong reasons, like weight loss or to break a bad habit.  But when we fast for the right reasons, this self deprivation can bring us to a deeper relationship with God.  For me personally, I find that it strips away my dependence on material items.  It makes me realize that I can survive without that snack or dessert or caffeinated beverage.  I find that the things I think I need are really just things that I want and that the Lord will provide what I truly need.

Our fasting during Lent imitates the fasting of Christ as he went into the desert for 40 days in preparation for his ministry.  He fasted and prayed to gain strength for his trials and suffering to come.  In the same way, we can use fasting to keep us close to our Father, even in times of difficulty.

Christ was tempted in the dessert, just like we are tempted during our fasting period.  It seems like chocolate never becomes more available than when we have given it up.  Or our stomach never growls louder than when we are avoiding snacks.  But just as Christ dismissed the devil’s intentions, so can we turn away from that piece of cake.

Fasting, however doesn’t have to relate only to food.  We can fast from technology, gossiping, judgmental thoughts.  We can strip ourselves of the need to tweet or snapchat. We can avoid situations that would cause us to fall into sin.  We can trust that God’s reward for our sacrifice will be trememendously greater that the sweetness of that cake or tidbit of gossip.

And when we find fasting to be extremely difficult, we can unite our suffering with that of Christ on the cross.  Through a share in his suffering, we can strive for a share in that glorious resurrection!

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