Scripture Reading: Matthew 9:15

“Do you wish your prayer to reach God?  Give it two wings, fasting and almsgiving.” -St. Augustine. “What happened to fast and abstinence in the Church in the United States?”  This was the question Pope John Paul II asked Msgr. Charles M. Murphy, the former Dean of the Pontifical North American College, in a conversation they had in Rome in 1980.  Pope John Paul perceived what is readily apparent to us still today, the seeming collapse of the practice of fasting in the day-to-day lives of Catholics.” (- Brian Kranick)

The above question is particularly relevant to us as Daily Strength prepares for her 2022 21-days fasting and prayer. The Bible tells us that Jesus “fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards, He was hungry.” (Mt. 4:2) If we are to unite ourselves more closely with Christ, we need to rediscover this holy practise of fasting.The Catechism lists fasting as one of the three pillars of penance in the Christian life.  Fasting, prayer and almsgiving express our conversion, respectively towards oneself, God, and neighbor. (CCC 1434) Fasting is a critical part of our metanoia, our turning away from sin.  We are in constant need of this conversion from sin.  It was when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit that Original Sin and concupiscence entered our human nature.  Since then, as St. Paul eloquently wrote, “the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh.” (Gal. 5:17) This is our human predicament.  The question we must ask ourselves is: Do our bodily desires and instincts rule our spirit, or does our spirit control our bodies?  The mortification of the flesh, through fasting, offers the “liberation of man” against this “wound inflicted on the dignity of our nature by intemperance.” (Paentiemini, II) Through fasting, we can cultivate this cardinal virtue of temperance, as moderation and self-control tame the unruliness of the flesh.

In the Old Testament, the people of Nineveh believed Jonah and the words of God, so “they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.”  God reacted by not carrying out His threat against them.  God showed Himself to be “a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.” (John. 4:2) It is an example for us.  By fasting, we can demonstrate our humility before God by repenting of our sins and asking forgiveness.   As the story of Nineveh shows, God readily accepts this act of contrition accompanied by penance (fasting).

MASS:  VIOLET: ST. DOMINIC OF SILAS Is 7:10-14; Ps 24:1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6 (R. see 7c, 10c); Accl: O key of David! You open the gates of the eternal Kingdom: come and lead us out of the prison where we sit in darkness.  Gospel Lk 1:26-38

Prayer Point:

               1.            Forgive us Lord and be merciful to us. We are deeply sorry for allowing our hearts to be led astray by our own desires and the things of the world, for the ways we have turned away from You, and sinned against You and You alone. Grant us the grace to submit ourselves to the control of your Holy Spirit. Hear us Lord as we seek Your face through fasting.

Exercise: Reflect on Daniel 9:3

Meditation: Jonah 3:10