Fasting…For Lent 2022 and Beyond
The keyword in both of today’s Scripture readings is “fasting”. Both the Prophet Isaiah and Jesus Himself uphold the value and challenge of true fasting. Pure and simple, fasting is a central Lenten practice along with prayer and almsgiving.
Fasting has long been considered a spiritual practice of self-discipline. More recently fasting has emerged as a popular secular dieting practice. For Catholics, fasting is a collective penitential practice of biblical origin, traditionally involving partial or complete abstinence from food or drink. Contemporary approaches to fasting include many other forms — from discipline regarding social media to thoughts and words, to sleeping in… as well as limitation of food and drink.
Isaiah and Jesus both emphasize fasting as means to a change of heart, a sharpening of personal focus, a means of resisting sin, of growth in love of God and neighbor. Jesus uses the image of the groom and guests at a wedding; He invites us to go beyond selfish ambitions and draw closer to Him, to love Him and share in His mission of sacrificial love. Isaiah highlights the practical challenge of fasting as he speaks of setting free the oppressed, sharing bread with the hungry, clothing the naked, not turning your back on anyone – a vital message for 21st Century folk as well as those of Isaiah’s day.
This Lent God invites us to go beyond ourselves and lovingly reach out to others, to be aware of others’ needs, to go out of ourselves in caring for others – as does Jesus! Our love is to flow from our relationship with Jesus: unselfish and self-sacrificing, practical, transformative – Jesus’ love for us flowing to all of God’s creation. Today’s needs are great: the COVID pandemic continues to sicken and kill many; nations are fiercely at war; poverty and injustice cry to us from our city streets; fear and hopelessness are all-too-evident; our common earthly home calls out for critical attention. Loving change is needed!
This Lenten Season may our personal fasting help foster a feasting of lasting and fruitful change of heart in both thought, word, and deed – the transforming Life and Love of Jesus Crucified for all creation. Amen!
Fr. John Schork, C.P. serves as the Province Vocation Director and also as Local Superior of the Passionist Community of Holy Name in Houston, Texas.