SELF-CONTROL

Friday after Ash Wednesday           

            Today’s first reading and gospel reading talk about fasting. It would be good to ask once again: Why do we fast?

            Giving up certain foods is a way of reclaiming self-control in our lives. We live in a very self-indulgent culture where priority is given to satisfying all physical cravings. There are a lot of things around us that tell us, in one way or another, “When you are hungry, take this food at once!” “When you are thirsty, take this drink at once!” Fast food stores abound to prevent us from experiencing a few seconds of hunger or thirst. We are urged to take immediate action when hunger or thirst hits us.

            According to Joseph Krempa, the deeper vice which all this feeds is the indulging not only of our physical hunger but also of all our emotions and appetites as well. Such ‘culture’ is convincing to look for “instant gratification.” How? By indulging our passionate feelings, satisfying our desires, giving pleasure to our sense.

            Spiritual masters tell us that if we allow our superficial hungers – hunger for foods and drinks, hunger for material wealth and possessions, hunger for power and influence, hunger for worldly entertainment, hunger for sexual satisfaction or pleasure… hunger for anything… if we allow these hungers to dominate our life we will never reach “the deepest hunger.” Our desires are insistent – they are immediate They want satisfaction now! Thus, our desires can easily and quickly dominate the soul.

            By fasting and abstinence, we make a “declaration of independence” from the hold our consumerist culture has on us and regain control not only over our bodies but over our other desires as well. If the point of fasting were only physical, it would differ little from dieting. The purpose of fasting is spiritual – that is, to help us bring order to our interior life.

            During Lent, the difficulty of giving up certain foods shows us how self-indulgent we are, how weak our will is, and how we need the spiritual strengthening of God’s grace. Giving up food for Lent is not about the body. It is about the soul; it is about the spirit. We fast because we have a hunger for God – We are meant to access that hunger – to feel it – so that we can direct it towards God. (Robert Barron) We fast in order to feel our hunger for God, in a deeper way.

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