Scripture Reading: Joel 1:14
Let us begin today’s reflection with the words of St. Basil the Great: “Fasting gives birth to prophets and strengthens the powerful; fasting makes lawgivers wise. Fasting is a good safeguard for the soul, a steadfast companion for the body, a weapon for the valiant, and a gymnasium for athletes. Fasting repels temptations, anoints unto piety; it is the comrade of watchfulness and the artificer of chastity. In war it fights bravely, in peace it teaches stillness.” Today, let us deepen our understanding of a very powerful, but much neglected weapon in the spiritual arsenal: Fasting and prayer. A Catholic writer once wrote; “If you want to put to energize your spiritual life, if you want to slay a sin that has you in bondage, if you want to grow in union with God, take up the holy weapon of fasting………”
Dear friends, fasting has triple dimension, which are: all forms of abstinence (self-denial) from food, pleasure etc., prayer and almsgiving (CHARITY). By fasting we empty ourselves by the help of the Holy Spirit, enlarge our capacity for the reception of the divine powers to slay the desire of our flesh, grow in the spirit, overcome demonic obstacles and obtain divine favour. Pope St. John Paul II says, “Let us therefore discover anew the humility and the courage to pray and fast so that power from on high will break down the walls of lies and deceit: the walls which conceal from the sight of so many of our brothers and sisters the evil of practices and laws which are hostile to life”.
Brethren, it is important to note the distortion in the current notion of fasting as Pope emeritus Benedict XVI pointed out; “In our own day, fasting seems to have lost something of its spiritual meaning, and has taken on, in a culture characterized by the search for material well-being, The true fast is thus directed to eating the “true food,” which is to do the Father’s will”. What is the father’s will in fasting, you may asked, the father has made his will know in our fasting, in Isaiah 58:3-12 God declare; “The Lord says to them, The truth is that at the same time you fast, you pursue your own interests and oppress your workers. Your fasting makes you violent, and you quarrel and fight……… Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor……….. if you give food to the hungry and satisfy those who are in need, then the darkness around you will turn to the brightness of noon……. .” Traditionally, fasting, prayer and almsgiving (charity) go together, when one of these three is missing, we should know that our fasting is lacking an essential ingredient. Pope Francis capture the charity dimension of fasting in these words “Fasting makes sense if it really affects our security, and also if a benefit to others comes from it, if it helps us to grow in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who bends down to his brother in need and takes care of him. Fasting involves choosing a sober life, which does not waste, which does not “discard”. Fasting helps us to train the heart to essentiality and sharing. It is a sign of awareness and responsibility in the face of injustices, abuses, especially towards the poor and the little ones, and is a sign of our trust in God and His providence”. So fasting time is not a time for savings, rather it is a time for charity, a time for giving, a time of sowing seeds of charity in faith.
Let us conclude today’s reflection with the words of St. Peter Chrysologus “Fasting is the soul of prayer; mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or not all together, you have nothing. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others”.
- Sing a song of worship to God as you are led.
- In Joshua 6:7; Joshua ordered the people to advance, walk around the city and possess the land God has planned for you. They advanced and possessed the land. Pray: ‘Lord, this month, I advance into your plan and purpose for my life, family and destiny, in Jesus name!’
- God blew out the wheels to pharaoh’s army to slow them down. Father, slow down my adversaries, destroy their works, their hands will not be able to fulfill their enterprise towards me and my family..
- Take the full prayers of Divine Mercy in this devotional.
Exercise: Gradually prepare your body for the fast. Start eating smaller portions of meals before you begin your fast. Avoid food that is high in sugar and fat. Two days prior to the fast, eat raw fruit and vegetables only.
Memory Verse: Ezra 8:21