This idea of fasting is daunting. It’s a mix between looking forward to ridding ourselves of the ties that bind and being afraid of letting go of what we hold on to the most. When He is with us, we don’t feel the need to fast, but when He is away from us, the urge is just so strong…
Lent naturally lends itself to the idea of fasting and prayer. As a Jew, I am accustomed to that. While others dreaded the coming of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, The Day of Fasting, I looked forward to it. It was the one day I knew I would not think of myself, the one day I knew I would draw closer to God.
But giving up food for one day out of the whole year was never enough for me. It seemed so shallow. How could I go hungry and fast for one day when there were 364 more days in the year? What were we supposed to do for those other days? It seemed hypocritical to me that the synagogues were packed on that one day of the year; the prayers were long, the hunger palpable. Those with money had the best seats in the house, and those that didn’t well, you can figure that one out…
I have since continued to observe Yom Kippur, both to keep me bound to God and to keep me accountable to myself. It brings back memories for me of the closeness I felt to God as a Jew and the blessing I have in Jesus Christ. It connects the old with the new in a way I simply cannot explain in words, which brings me to Lent and the concept of fasting.
I have chosen this year to fast from idleness. Anything not producing fruit in me is not allowed. Time is precious and so I have chosen to replace that idle time with something of Him. A book, music, spiritual readings and the rosary. I have included my children on that commitment as well. They can choose to fill their time with anything except idleness, and even in one day I have seen the fruit…
I began Lent before Lent as lead by the Spirit. I imagine this is how it was for Jesus. God preparing His heart before he entered the desert so He could resist the devil. And as I began letting go of the things that made me idle, I began to feel as though I wasn’t fasting at all. It was then that I understood today’s gospel:
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
“Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast.”
When He is with us, we get it. Fasting from the world turns into joy in the Lord. He becomes present to us in a tangible way so that leaving behind those things that don’t matter doesn’t appear to be fasting at all. Our hunger turns to fulfillment, and that in turn feeds the God shaped hole in our hearts, and we quickly forget what it was we ever gave up in the first place…
If Today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts. Give up to gain, die to live. There is nothing that the world has to offer us. His living water never runs dry.
May the God of all mercy abundantly bless you today, and may He make you a dwelling place for His Holy Spirit.
Come Holy Spirit fount of mercy!