“Jesus, after having fasted for forty days and forty nights, was hungry”–Mt. 4:2
Fasting is one of those things I have never really learned to do well. Always seems painful. Seems too often to be self-centered, in the sense that my attention turns toward my hunger, my weakness, my anticipation of the breaking of the fast. I wonder if I have ever matured past the “adolescent stage” of fasting.
The Church since its inception has recommended, and at times insisted, on fasting as a condition of discipleship. Our Lord reminded his apostles that some things cannot be dealt with without prayer and fasting. Countless numbers of people in the world are always fasting, out of necessity and poverty.
Yet here am I, one who struggles to appreciate fasting as a spiritual discipline.
Fasting without prayer is a diet or a self-help strategy. It will not be a spiritual tool of maturation, it will not be a way to holiness if prayer does not permeate every minute of its time. The prayer that turns a fast into an expansion of our spiritual capacity is prayer that fills us with the needs of others.
Mother Teresa was a master faster. She fasted continually. Her spirituality was a complete fast, not only of food, but even from the sense that God was there. Her fast was complete. Her prayer was continual.
As I consider my Lenten fast for 2009, I am searching for ways in which it will be laced with prayer and communion, emptiness so as to be one with not only God, but with the needy of my family and community.