PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Thursday, February 26, 2004

 


My Problem with Fasting


I have a problem with fasting. I refer to that kind of fasting being done to seek God’s favor on a certain intention, usually spiritual in nature. My qualm is not that if I fasted, I’d be deprived of my favorite chicken-pork adobo for lunch. It is that if I fasted, it’s as though I was using my own power to further something spiritual, as though God’s grace alone is not enough. Why do I have to bribe the Lord with death-defying fasts? I feel it’s intrinsically wrong to have to earn my way into His favor, much like doing this and that pilgrimage to gain a plenary indulgence.


To further border on what seems like a heresy, there was a point in my life as an active Catholic when I was being asked to fast more than I could chew my favorite meat. It was a time I was beginning to feel too mortified for comfort until such time that I gave it all up, particularly fasting on bread and water, which I find particularly debilitating. It was too much against my voracious nature. If I deprived myself too much, then what is the point of living?, as somebody else put it.


And so for the longest time, I shunned the practice of fasting. I feasted instead. What I offered the Lord were good works and the more convenient way to fast – self-deprivation from TV, radio, movie, etc. I knew I was deceiving myself, though. I was defying the spirit of fasting, I was depriving myself of something I can easily do without. I have long proven that fasting on bread and water or on nothing at all was the most, um, efficacious way.


But it didn’t escape me either that whenever I splurged on food, my intentions – be it to serve as an all-around guy at a retreat, or just to arrange the monobloc chairs and buy tube ice – went less than smoothly. And I am attacked in a special way right after: I get awfully drained and irritated, I feel spiritually dry and spent.


I realized that fasting is for my own protection as well, not just for the benefit of my selfless intention I realized that there’s this annoying opposition watching behind my shoulder, looking out for moment of weakness. Fasting, I realized, is stacking positive spiritual and because that energy is spent again and again in the daily struggle, it needs to be replenished, the thirst has to be quenched - and right away, too. Fasting protects against spiritual weakness; foregoing fasting is therefore especially dangerous when you are about to embark on special spiritual missions. If we are vigilant, the enemy is just as vigilant; it wastes no time in jumping at the chance.


All spiritual activities are sheer grace, it’s true; but it would do well for those who serve the Lord to sacrifice a bit for a certain period of time in the form of fasting, especially from food. Being vessels of grace, servants are special targets of hatred and fury from the enemy, and fasting is a potent weapon against it.


***


A more straightforward explanation on fasting can be found in the Lent 2004 issue of The Word Among Us:


“Fasting is not meant for trying to motivate God to do something for us. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s about learning something from him, rather than earning something from him. … Our role is to find our delight in the Lord. The rest is up to God.


“This is ultimately why Scripture urges us to fast: not for the sake of making our voices heard on high but so that we can love the Lord and give ourselves in service to his people… “


“Fasting that pleases God involves fasting from our fallen nature.”


Fasting also has a social dimension. “…[S]etting free the oppressed, sharing our food with the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and clothing the poor…”


8.13.2001

Updated Feb. 27. 2004



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