Imagine you are really hungry. What else will you be able to pay attention to, other than your stomach, at that point of time, isn’t it?
Hunger demands our whole self. This means that it has a way of demanding our whole body – our attention, our energy, our actions, our will and even our thoughts! Try studying or listening to music or attending a lecture while hungry and you will understand better.
Fasting is a spiritual habit that engages with the all-demanding sensation of hunger. Here below are three aspects of lent we may meditate upon.
1. Fasting is about a relationship with God
Matthew 6:16-18 | “When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
We need to guard our relationships like never before. Our distractions keep us from growing deeper in relationships. It leaves us floating on the surface, when they were meant to grow deep and transform us.
Fasting helps us focus on our relationship with God, by cutting out the distractions. Every time there is discomfort during fasting, we are to pray all the more for strength and wisdom and endurance. For this purpose, the days of fasting are accompanied by singing hymns, reading the Word and praying all the more.
2. Fasting is about identifying with those who are suffering and the needy
Isaiah 58:5-7 | Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter —
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Fasting is not only about my becoming righteous in front of God. It is also about a righteous God asking us to be his presence to those in need. Fasting definitely is not a trophy of the spiritual person that s/he flaunts to the sinners around. Instead, it must make one humble; humble enough to forgive; humble enough to go beyond oneself and make a difference to those in need.
How many needy people are receiving our help today? Fasting brings our focus back to the ones we tend to miss in our busy, daily lives.
3. Fasting is a way to express remorse and sadness
2 Samuel 12:15-17 | After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.
David was ashamed of the Bathsheba incident when it was pointed out by prophet Nathan. His guilt, as well as the illness of his son, sent him into sadness. Fasting was part of his expression of remorse and sadness.
We fast during the Great Lent in order to identify with the suffering of Jesus Christ on his journey to the cross. We also express our remorse and repentance for our behaviour through fasting.
In this sense, it is a cleansing process that refreshes us not only spiritually, but also as a whole. Fasting is a transformative way of handling and overpowering desire (hunger) into a means o spiritual refreshing.
Let us pray that the Lord gives us the strength to identify with the sufferings of him as well as those of the needy through this Great Lent season.
May God bless us all.