Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward He was hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But He answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:1-4, Deuteronomy 8:3).
Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights following his Baptism by Saint John. This has much to say about how fasting helps us to hunger for God and His Word. Because Christ was fully Man, His hunger for food after fasting for so long was real human hunger. Yet that desire for human food was transformed into a hunger for divine food, to partake of “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” This divine food is life giving and eternally satisfying.
We become indifferent towards prayer when our desires to feed our bellies, to pursue escapism/entertainment, and to seek sexual pleasure control our lives. In addition, being constantly on the run and busy may be a symptom of avoiding underlying anxieties and fears we are reluctant to address in our lives.
Fasting is important for us on several levels. First and most important, it helps to keep us in constant remembrance of what our Lord accomplished for us in His Holy Passion on the Cross, what He gave up for us, and what He endured for us. His suffering and death were voluntary; His redemptive act on our behalf was “the joy that was set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). By our little acts of depriving ourselves of certain things for a while, we might begin to nurture a spirit of gratitude and thanks for what He has done for us.
Second, fasting helps us to get in touch with the passions that have gained control of our lives and to do battle with them. It helps us to realize that this battle can’t be won unless this misguided hunger is redirected to prayer and to seeking divine help. This is also a time to go to Confession and bring those struggles to Christ, to be witnessed by the priest. Our Lord, through the priest’s guidance, can then offer assistance to help you along the path of this spiritual warfare. This is why we fast.
But how are we to fast? In family life, how do you introduce fasting to young children as they grow up? How do you address fasting in public settings such, as schools, birthday parties, and other social events? I am sure there have been many conversations with priests and questions in education classes about this. So this is nothing new. I do have a few thoughts to share on this topic. Thank you for your patience.
The blessing of the Lord be upon you,