Ellen Gable encourages us to fast year-round, examining the spiritual benefits of this penitential practice.
Are you like many people who dread Ash Wednesday or Good Friday, the Church’s compulsory days of fasting? Or do you embrace the self-denial of fasting on those days? When you become accustomed to the regular practice of fasting throughout the year, these “compulsory” days become opportunities for abundant graces and spiritual growth.
Many people mistakenly believe that fasting belongs only in the penitential season of Lent. However, the regular self-denial of fasting is a positive and generous act that we can do all year 'round. And let’s face it, with Covid, riots, widespread abortion and sexual immorality, our world is in turmoil. Our world needs more people to fast.
Remember that Jesus fasted before every major event in His life. As well, His apostles fasted. In Scripture, fasting is mentioned numerous times in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, but the following Scriptural passage indicates how powerful fasting is.
But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, "Why couldn’t we drive it (demon) out?"
He replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:27-29)
What exactly IS fasting? According to the Church, fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday entails eating two small meals and one larger meal that is not more than the two smaller meals together. It also means abstaining from meat. Others fast on nutritious whole-grain, high-protein bread and water. The important thing is to eat less and abstain from meat and treats.
Peter said to Jesus, “You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
Eternal life ... isn’t that our goal? How do we get there? A virtuous life, one that is sacrificial, one that is obedient to God’s laws, this is the way to eternal life. Lent is an ideal time to embrace the practice of fasting. And not just on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday! Fasting can happen on EVERY Wednesday and Friday throughout the year. The regular self-denial of fasting is definitely one of the most direct ways to get to heaven. Why? Fasting opens our hearts to conversion, gives weight to our prayer intentions. Fasting strengthens us in resisting temptations, promotes peace in our hearts and peace with one another. Fasting teaches us the difference between wanting and needing. Fasting reminds us of the plight of the poor and those who are perpetually hungry. Fasting and prayer can free us from addictive behavior. Fasting invites the Holy Spirit in to heal our hearts, our relationship with God and our relationship with others. Fr. Slavko Barbaric said, “Fasting will lead us to a new freedom of heart and mind.”
The devil is not greatly afraid of the discipline and other instruments of penance. That which beats him is the curtailment of one’s food, drink and sleep. There is nothing the devil fears more, consequently, nothing is more pleasing to God. (St. John Vianney)
There are so many great reasons to fast and Lent is an ideal time to begin this regular practice of self-denial. The elderly and those who cannot fast from food can fast from TV, social networking, eating out, treats, or coffee.
Lent is a time for change and sacrifice. If you can do penitential acts during Lent, then you can do them all year 'round! Always check with your physician before beginning any fasting routine.
Copyright 2021 Ellen Gable Hrkach
Image: Pixabay (2020)
About the Author
Ellen and her husband, James, have been certified NFP teachers for the Couple to Couple League since 1984 and teach Theology of the Body to teens. She’s also an award-winning, bestselling author of ten books, an editor, a publisher and a self-publishing book coach. Her newest novel is Ella's Promise. The mother of five adult sons and grandmother of one precious grandson, Ellen lives in Pakenham, Ontario with her husband. Contact her at Full Quiver Publishing.