Each year, at the beginning of Lent, we mostly hear about prayer, alms, and fasting. In that case, I understand why we should pray more, and give alms to the poor. But why do we fast? How does that help anything?”
In the Old Testament, fasting was observed to show grief. But starting in the New Testament, fasting took on another meaning which is a way to focus on God and prayer.
Fasting and abstinence are expected of adult Catholics, ages 18-59. Fasting comes at the start of Lent which is on Ash Wednesday and at its end which is on Good Friday. This means only eating one full meal and two small meals that equal one meal as well as no snacks in between meals and sometimes, no meat consumption.
So, why fast?
Life is too hectic for us to notice anything. Even to notice the benefits of fasting in our lives. Fasting does not slow us down, it makes us humble. During fasting, we actually realize how dependent we are on food. But instead of feeling entitled to our wealth, we allow God to come into our lives in a deeper way and remind us who we are. We start to feel less arrogant and we start to appreciate our blessings. We start to show a bit of solidarity with the poor, with those who only have a bowl of rice and a swallow of water each day.
Physically, fasting has its own health benefits on us. When you fast, you tend to lose some unwanted fats because your system gets rid of excessive fats which snacks and meat could cause. And fasting also helps us to get rid of whatever that can poison our spiritual lives. Are you aware that luxuries can distract us from what’s important? So by giving up any luxury which we have so much depended on, especially those ones that have some negative consequences, is also a form of fasting.
We don’t really fast to feel good, but to instead remind ourselves that half of the world goes to bed hungry. In that case, fasting reminds us that we should always be our brother’s keeper in our Christian life.
Therefore, Prayer, almsgiving, and especially fasting – is the highest order to take Lent seriously and to be open to what God calls us to become.