The Value of Fasting

I am an avid reader of science and technology articles. I read Wired and Popular Science cover to cover within days of the magazine arriving in my mailbox and I read articles from numerous websites. I get super excited when I notice a link between my two passions — science and technology and prayer and spirituality.

I came across such an article that dived into the science behind fasting. A researcher has a theory that fasting obstructs a hormone responsible for cell growth and makes people more sensitive to insulin. He thinks that periodic fasting could reduce one’s chances of developing diabetes or cancer. The technical details are beyond the scope of this article but it’s an interesting read.

The article mentions that those who fast often feel sharper mentally because of a process called ketosis. It has something to do with a difference in body chemistry when you’re burning fat instead of carbohydrates. But that got me thinking about why the Church recommends fasting in addition to prayer. If fasting sharpens the mind and makes you physically healthier, could it also make you spiritually healthier as well?

The common idea behind fasting is that we give up something physical (such as food) and replace it with something spiritually nourishing. But this isn’t a trade of equal value. The spiritual benefit will always outweigh the physical loss. Think about that for a second. You give up a dessert or your ritual cup of coffee so you can instead better listen to God and form a deeper relationship with Him. Talk about giving up so little to gain so much!  Seems like an easy deal right?

And yet, while we all know the tremendous benefit of fasting, it is probably one of the hardest disciplines to practice. I think many of us have no problem saying some extra prayers, reading the bible, or praying the rosary when we put our minds to it. But you might as well suggest amputating a limb at the idea of not having that slice of cheesecake, substituting that mouth watering bacon burger for soup, or cutting out that cup of afternoon coffee. But that’s the point isn’t it? The harder the sacrifice, the more you benefit. When you say, “Okay God, I’m giving this up for you!” the better you will be able to hear God respond with a “thank you” and His grace.

And on Saturday he ate 1 piece of chocolate cake, 1 ice cream cone, 1 pickle…

Fasting amplifies our prayers and our reception of God’s Word.  Compare fasting/prayer to diet/exercise.  Exercise is not as effective without a matching, healthy diet.  All that you gain working out for an hour can be undone with a single cheesecake slice.  Or your health can be further benefited by supplementing exercise with nutritious food.  The same can be said for prayer.  All the benefits of prayer can be undone by a moment of sin or it can be elevated when combined with fasting.  Obviously, if we pray and then turn around and sin we really haven’t let God’s grace into our hearts.  But when we pray and fast, we allow God more room in our hearts to truly transform us.  St. Augustine once said, “Those who sing pray twice.”  If that’s true then I say that those who fast must be praying five-fold.

Jesus in Pray
Jesus in Pray (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How does fasting connect to the rosary?  Think about one of the themes of the Third Luminous Mystery.  Jesus calls us to focus on living for His Kingdom of Heaven.  That focus manifests itself by active conversion of our ways.  We change our earthly focus to a Heavenly one.  And that is exactly what fasting is all about.  We give up something worldly in exchange for something spiritual.  We intentionally choose the Kingdom of Heaven over delights in this earthly kingdom.  No one accidentally fasts.  Nor do we accidentally live for Heaven.  In the Third Luminous Mystery, Jesus puts a choice before us.  Will you live for His kingdom and convert your ways or will you remain chained to the pleasures of this life?

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

God Must Come First!

Love
Love (Photo credits: PB Teen)

What’s more important, serving God or serving each other?   points out in his article on The Remnant that over the last few decades the Church’s focus has shifted from loving God first to primarily loving our fellow brothers and sisters.  It’s not that we have to choose one or the other.  We are called to do both.  But it is a matter of priority and focus.  If you accept the premise that Catholic Church has shifted its priorities in the last few generations, ask yourself whether that has strengthened or weakened the Church.  Have we veered from what Jesus taught and what has made the Church strong over the centuries?  Patrick Archbold thinks so and believes much of the weakness of faith within the Church has to do with this shift.  I encourage you to read his article in full.  The focus of this article will be on the rosary (naturally).  Let’s look at what some of the rosary mysteries teach us about loving God vs. loving our fellow humans.

Look at the order of the first and second Joyful Mysteries of the rosary.  In the Annunciation, we see Mary putting God first by accepting his plan for her.  We then see in the Visitation Mary going out and helping her cousin Elizabeth.  Notice the order?  Okay, there is the fact that chronologically, the Annunciation did precede the Visitation.  But there is also a spiritual significance in the order as well.  When we pray the rosary we meditate first on the love of God as seen in the Annunciation and then the love for our fellow brothers and sisters as represented in the Visitation.  In putting our love for God first, we receive his grace and can therefore more fully serve each other just as Mary does in the Joyful Mysteries.

On to the First Sorrowful Mystery.  Jesus fears his upcoming arrest and crucifixion.  But he prays to God asking God to first find another way he could redeem the world but also submits to God’s Will.  Jesus shows his primary love for God by acknowledging God’s authority and humbly submitting to his plan.  Later, when he’s arrested, Jesus tells his apostles, who were ready to defend him, to stand down.  While Jesus loved his apostles and his apostles loved him, Jesus puts his life not in their hands, but into God’s hands.  Again, we see the model Jesus asks us to follow — serve according to God’s Will first.

Finally, take a look at the Third Luminous Mystery.  Jesus preaches that we should all convert our ways to God’s ways.  We are called to live first for the Kingdom of Heaven.  Note that Jesus did not tell us to solely live for the Kingdom of Heaven and forsake our responsibilities and others in this world.  But it is a matter of priority — desiring God’s kingdom must come first.  And from that desire, not only for ourselves but for others, we better help our fellow brothers and sisters to also come to live in God’s grace.

I will leave you with a quotation from the Council of Trent that Patrick Archbold cites in his article as I think it sums up nicely why the love of God needs to come before our love for our fellow humans.

“Moreover, no honor, no piety, no devotion can be rendered to God sufficiently worthy of Him, since love of Him admits of infinite increase. Hence our charity should become every day more fervent towards Him, who commands us to love Him with our whole heart, our whole soul, and with all our strength. The love of our neighbor, on the contrary, has its limits, for the Lord commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. To outstep these limits by loving our neighbor as we love God would be an enormous crime.” —Catechism of Trent, Part 3, Chapter 5, Question 5

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Our Lady’s Messages — August 2010

In Mary’s first August message at Medjugorje, she asks us to live for God’s Kingdom of Heaven which is echoed in my rosary meditation on the Third Luminous Mystery. In Her other message, she asks us to pray.

Statue of Virgin Mary in Medjugorje - Bosnia H...
Image by gnuckx via Flickr

In Mary’s first August message at Medjugorje, she asks us to live for God’s Kingdom of Heaven which is echoed in the rosary meditation on the Third Luminous Mystery.  In Her other message, she asks us to pray.

Mary’s message to Mirjana on August 2, 2010:

Dear children! Today I call you, together with me, to begin to build the Kingdom of Heaven in your hearts; that you may forget that what is personal and – led by the example of my Son – think of what is of God. What does He desire of you? Do not permit Satan to open the paths of earthly happiness, the paths without my Son. My children, they are false and last a short while. My Son exists. I offer you eternal happiness and peace and unity with my Son, with God; I offer you the Kingdom of God. Thank you.

Mary’s message echos one of the main themes of the Third Luminous Mystery — The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion.  She wants us to understand the temporary nature of this life and the permanent nature of God’s kingdom in Heaven.  As Christians, we do believe that there is a Heaven where we hope to spend all eternity.  But how many of us work in this life for that Kingdom?  Mary wants us to take a hard look at ourselves and how we live and ask, “Am I on the path that leads to God’s kingdom or an earthly one?”

“My Son exists.”  Mary’s short sentence is very telling.  The fact that She has to tell us that shows that many of us forget that Jesus Christ does exist and is seated at the right hand of God in Heaven.  As I said in the Second Glorious Mystery — The Ascension, we often forget that we must one day account before God for everything we do in this life.  We forget that admission into Heaven is not free.  We must earn our spot by genuinely loving God through good works and avoiding sin.  God desires all of us to experience the eternal happiness of Heaven, but He doesn’t force it on us.  We have to want it and work towards it.

Mary’s message at Medjugorje on August 25, 2010:

Dear children! With great joy, also today, I desire to call you anew: pray, pray, pray. May this time be a time of personal prayer for you. During the day, find a place where you will pray joyfully in a recollected way. I love you and bless you all. Thank you for having responded to my call.

Mary doesn’t get clearer than this.  Pray!  Before you flip to another web page or email, just take a minute, ONE MINUTE, to say a small prayer.  Or pick up a rosary and pray a decade.  Who knows, you might even like it.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Medjugorje Message — April 2, 2010

Mary’s message at Medjugorje on April 2, 2010: Dear children; Today I bless you in a special way and I pray for you to return to the right way, to my Son – your Saviour, your Redeemer – to Him who gave you eternal life. Reflect on everything human, on everything that does not permit you to set out after my Son – on transience, imperfection and limitation – and then think of my Son, of His Devine infiniteness. By your surrender and prayer ennoble your body and perfect your soul. Be ready, my children. Thank you.

Christians believe that Jesus is the mediator ...
Image via Wikipedia

Mary‘s message at Medjugorje on April 2, 2010:

Dear children; Today I bless you in a special way and I pray for you to return to the right way, to my Son – your Saviour, your Redeemer – to Him who gave you eternal life. Reflect on everything human, on everything that does not permit you to set out after my Son – on transience, imperfection and limitation – and then think of my Son, of His Devine infiniteness. By your surrender and prayer ennoble your body and perfect your soul. Be ready, my children. Thank you.

I am reminded of the Third Luminous Mystery where Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of Heaven and called us to conversion.  Mary asks us to return the the “right way” which is the way of Jesus Christ.  She asks us to reflect on all those things which separate us from living according to God‘s Word.  What are your imperfections and limitations?  Are there particular sins that separate you from God’s grace?  Or can you think of the ways you can convert from living a worldly life to a more spiritual one?

When you think about this message, also think about conducting a thorough Examination of Conscious.  Even if you are not about to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, an examination of conscious is a good way to see how well you are living for God’s kingdom.  Think of it like a medical checkup except, instead of examining your physical health, you examine your spiritual health.  Mary asks us to think about everything that separates us from Jesus Christ and then surrender ourselves to His Will and let go of the vices of this world so that we may become perfected in Jesus’ Word.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,