Fasting is amazingly popular in our culture today if you are seeking to shed some weight or reap the debated health benefits. A google search provides an overwhelming amount of information. On the other hand, not much is written about fasting as a tool for our spiritual growth. This time-tested practice is a proven method for shedding the weight of self-will and the evolution to our lower self. Today, I challenge us see how fasting trains our soul for goodness and the higher purpose of love. I have mentioned previously, God prunes our hearts through prayer, fasting and almsgiving, as we unite with Him.
When our lives are aligned with and to God, we become conduits of enormous power. A force for good. When we step fully into our higher self and reflect God’s goodness in our broken world, we impact every person in our life.
Attachments block us and break us from this flow. The ego is involved in all our attachments. We can be attached to wealth, possessions, persons, a group, our jobs, or our intelligence. It is anything I convince myself I cannot live without such as money, power, pleasure, honor, comfort, social media, you get the picture, right?
This past year, with the pandemic and my husband’s transplant, brought to light many of my attachments that I am now choosing to let go of. Clothes, purses, and shoes do not bring the same joy as they used to. It is also time to let go of my coveted Houstonian membership as I simplify and pare down to only what I need.
We have more than 2,000 years of history that point to the benefits of fasting. With the right intention, fasting trains our soul for goodness and to resist evil. Out of love for His father, Jesus overcomes the temptations of sin and shows Himself as God’s servant, obedient to the divine will opposed to Adam who gave into temptation and ate the dreaded apple. Did you catch that? Jesus prays and fasts out of love for His father. It is not about what is being offered it is the why. As I offer things for God’s love, it increases my love and faith for my God.
I love my coffee and there are days when I would really like to have a third cup. As I have grown in my knowledge about fasting, I often offer up that third cup of coffee for God’s love and feel him smiling at me for this small sacrifice.
In our developed countries the flesh rules and our lives are oriented to this reign of self-destruction. We think it is a blessing that we can find whatever we want, whenever we want it, in abundance whether legal or illegal. Instead of making our lives better, this addiction reverses the intended roles of our lower and higher natures. Immediate gratification feeds our lower nature and our craving for the things of the flesh that seek to rule us. It feeds our desires that lead us to the seven deadly sins and their offspring, all of which unchecked, lead us into our own personal hell. These desires enslave us to the wants and whims of our feelings rather than to our intellect and will that God has given to us. This enslavement leads to a weakened will and down a pathway to internal disintegration including anxiety, stress, and ultimate separation from God.
Return to me with all your heart, with fasting.Focus on His truth, Joel 2:12
In the Lost Art of Sacrifice, Vicki Burbach provides a pathway to reinvigorating the lost art of ascesis – of saying yes to God and no to the flesh. She gives us a process of reordering the flesh so that it is subordinate to the spirit which is essential in knowing the peace of God and to the soul’s progress to sanctity. Fasting is a disposition that helps us develop the art of sacrifice.
The precepts of the church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by the liturgical life. Observing the days of fasting and abstinence prepare us for the liturgical feasts; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart. Interior penance can be expressed in various ways, but scripture insists above all on fasting, prayer and almsgiving. Throughout scripture we find that God’s people fast and as they fast, the power of their prayers increased, especially when they are engaged in spiritual warfare. Voluntary self-denial through fasting sets us free.
St. John Chrysotom wrote about God allowing temptation for us to grow our spiritual muscles. Since we have received greater power and a sharper sword against evil through baptism, we learn through trials, the superiority of His grace and the greatness of this spiritual strength. God allows these attacks and the opportunity to gain many victories.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux shows us that making sacrifices in the proper spirit brings us joy and growth. She understood that the size of the sacrifice is not important, but it is the motive of the heart. As a child, St. Thérèse knew this power and would carry a sliding string of beads in her pocket as a reminder. She wanted to make at least ten acts of love daily, so she would offer up a small sacrifice and pull one of the ten beads to the other side of the string, until all the beads were pulled.
A friend of mine told me a story about the $8 Priest. Every day this priest set aside eight one-dollar bills in his wallet as Gods money to use as He willed. Some days the priest would be called to give the money to eight different people, others he might give all the money to one person. Small things done in love.
I hope this post helps you identify something in your life that you are willing to give up for love during the forty days of Lent. For me, I think this year I need to give up worry. Every time I start to worry, I will offer that up in prayer “Jesus, I trust in You!”
As Matthew Kelly says, “Love is a choice, and an important one, because we become what we love.” Will your higher self be victorious over your lower self as you reflect on your day? I pray that our small daily victories add up to great wins so we can be smitten with goodness, spreading seeds of goodness throughout our world.
In His Love,