I just finished reading my children a book of Lenten prayers. Tonight’s prayer topic was on the value of fasting. Fasting is a huge theme emphasized throughout Lent. And yet I know many people who do not see the value of it or are confused about why we do it. To put it simply, one goal of fasting is to forgo an earthly desire such as food to make room for God’s grace. We have a great example of this in the rosary.
If fasting means exchanging our worldly desires for Heavenly ones, let’s look at Jesus’ crucifixion which we meditate on in the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary. What can it tell us about the value of fasting? At Jesus’ crucifixion, there are two criminals crucified with Him. One rebukes Jesus saying that he should save all three of them if He really is the Messiah. The other simply asks Jesus to remember him. Jesus tells that criminal that he will join Him in paradise on that day.
The first criminal can represent our disposition when we aren’t fasting. We are concerned about our worldly situation and how to constantly improve it. We ask Jesus for all sorts of things; many of them well-intentioned and some of them maybe a bit selfish. The first criminal wanted more of his life on earth. In a way, he wanted things back the way they were because that’s the only reality he knew. And let’s be honest, his life couldn’t have been that great if he ended up on a cross. We too, when our hearts are so full of earthly desires, just want to maintain the status quo. When we do that, we close ourselves off from something greater — God’s grace and making a place for ourselves in Heaven.
The second criminal represents our state of mind and soul when we fast. Having been stripped of all that life has to offer, he came to Jesus with a humble heart asking simply for Jesus to remember him. With nothing attaching him to the world, he realized Jesus’ true nature and how important it was to reconcile himself with Him. Similarly, when we fast we let go of everything worldly that weighs us down and can more clearly see Jesus for who He really is — our Lord and Savior.
Fasting is more than a Catholic diet plan or some ancient tradition that we just do out of habit. It is our opportunity to put our lives, our fears, and our desires into perspective. We’re human and so naturally there are things in this world we enjoy. But during Lent, let’s reflect on whether we still make room for God’s plan and focus on obtaining our Heavenly goal. Or have our attachments to this world, even the non-sinful ones, prevent us from embracing the true happiness that comes from God’s grace?