In some ways I hesitate to share this post because I am aware of our Lord’s admonition in the sixth chapter of Matthew’s gospel:
When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you. (Mt. 6:16-18)
But I trust in our Lord’s benevolence and if I err in sharing these thoughts for other people’s consideration then I call upon God’s mercy.
A few months ago I determined through prayer and its insight to commit every Friday as a day of fasting and abstinence from eating meat. I talked this decision over with my spiritual director and I have determined that there are three compelling motives that have brought me to this decision: 1. a desire to grow closer to Christ 2. my role as vocation director and a fast specifically for vocations to priesthood and the consecrated life 3. a way of sharing in the repentance of the Church for the recent scandals that have wounded the body of Christ.
In many of his words regarding the clergy scandals our Holy Father has called for a renewed spirit of repentance within the whole church. I believe that we must be sincere in this. Sincere repentance can help heal the wounds that afflict the Church and we all, as members of the Church, have a role to play.
In my new ministry as Vocation Director for our diocese I am finding that there is much to do but the ministry must be about more than just “doing” because vocations cannot be programmed, designed nor produced. Vocations are a response of the heart to the call of Christ. This one day of the week I offer up my little discomfort that hearts might be open and willing to respond to God’s call.
I want to draw closer to Christ and yet I resist. Fasting helps me to recognize all the ways (some big, some small) that I resist. Fasting helps to clarify my thoughts and focus my attention and realize what is of true and lasting worth. I have found that when I fast I am less caught up in my own illusions and I notice things more.
Talking about noticing things… A little aside here – when I first began this weekly fast there were a number of weeks that I had to travel and I happened to find myself in airports on a few Fridays. I quickly came to realize (as I walked from gate to gate with a growling stomach) how a considerable amount of square footage in airport terminals is dedicated to the selling of food and beverages and how there seems to be an efficiency in getting the smells of cooking food out into the terminal! Lord, lead me not into temptation and help me walk by that Cinnabon stand!
I offer these thoughts for consideration. There is a value to fasting. God can take the littlest thing we have to offer and can do great things with it!