There are always questions as to why Catholics fast during Lent-not just by not eating on some days, but by giving something up. I’m not sure if this is a modern development, or just that I have seen it more since I have been thinking about it, but it seems like a distinctly modern notion is to push the two other Lenten practices (prayer and almsgiving) more than fasting, or instead of giving something up, to do something additional.
I think there is something to be said for going without.
- Fasting helps us trim the fat. Not necessarily bodily fat, but the areas in our lives where we have let excess carry us away from legitimate pleasures to shaky ground. By cutting things from our life, we are less encumbered and more able to run the race set before us.
- It reminds us that we don’t need to be comfortable. Pope Benedict XVI is often quoted as saying, “The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” We live in a society where everything is so comfortable that we get cranky when the steak isn’t cooked exactly how we like it, or when our hotel room mattress is not quite as supportive as our $2000 mattress at home. Fasting helps us recognize that we don’t always need comfort, and that sometimes moving higher requires a death to self.
- It reminds us that we are little. If we are to place our trust in God, we will find ourselves unable to do so if we think that we are masters of the universe. A small sacrifice offered in sincerity of heart can shine the light on us, showing us our littleness and our great need for grace to support us. It’s not a sign of weakness to need grace-it’s a sign of sanctity. Thinking that he did not need grace turned Lucifer into Satan. Grace is a free gift offered to us by God at every moment-we just need to turn and accept it.
Hope your Lent is getting off to a great start!