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Saint Romuald, Abbot
When you fast …(Matthew 6:17)
The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” This quote, while originally penned in humor, contains a kernel of truth. We love food! Not only does it satisfy our physical hunger, it can bring us comfort and happiness as well. So for many of us, the idea of intentionally going without it—fasting—can make us feel uncomfortable.
Remember, though, that the culture Jesus addressed was more accustomed to fasting than ours. Giving alms to the poor, prayer, and fasting were the three most important spiritual disciplines to a faithful Jew. Fasting, in particular, was seen as a powerful expression of turning to God in repentance. It wasn’t necessarily repentance from a particular sinful activity. Rather, fasting was seen as an active way of tuning in to God. It might help to think of a radio. In order to clear the static and find the station you’re looking for, you have to turn the knob until the radio is in tune with the station’s frequency. In a similar way, fasting was seen as a valuable method of finding the Lord and getting on his wavelength.
Fasting is just as valuable today as it was in Jesus’ time. It gives us more time to turn to the Lord in prayer. The physical hunger we feel can help put us in touch with our spiritual hunger for Jesus. And it confirms Jesus’ teaching that we don’t live on bread alone “but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Even better, tuning in to the Lord through fasting puts us more clearly in touch with his love, his desires, and his peace. These spiritual rewards far outweigh any temporary feelings of discomfort from hunger.
It’s important, also, to see that Jesus didn’t say if you fast, but rather when you fast. If you’d like to begin but aren’t sure how, keep it simple at first. Give up just one meal, and spend that time focusing on the Lord in prayer or reading the Scriptures. Just try this once a week, and let it build from there. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your spiritual frequency becomes more tuned in with the Lord’s!
“Lord Jesus, I’m hungry for your words of life.”
2 Corinthians 9:6-11; Psalm 112:1-4, 9
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