“Fasting is the support of our soul: it gives us wings to ascend on high, and to enjoy the highest contemplation! [...] God, like an indulgent father, offers us a cure by fasting.” – St. John Chrysostom
This week all Catholics begin the Holy Season of Lent, The Great Fast. As an Eastern Rite Catholic, I begin my Lent tomorrow (fasting, as well as abstinence from meat and dairy products). For Western Rite Catholics, Lent begins this Wednesday (fasting, as well as abstinence from meat).
But these words from St. John Chrysostom remind us of how we should view fasting:
Do not say to me, I fasted for so many days. I did not eat this or I did not eat that. I did not drink wine, that I endured want. Instead, show me if thou, from an angry man, has become instead gentle. If from a cruel man, thou hast become benevolent. If thou art filled with anger, why oppress thy flesh? If hatred and avarice are within thee, of what benefit is it that thou drinkest water instead of wine? Do not show forth a useless fast, for fasting alone does not ascend to heaven.
This reminds me of James 2:17: “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
If we truly have faith, it will show forth in how we live. If we truly understand fasting, it will show forth in how we clean up our act spiritually.
Take the early part of this week to think and pray about how you can use this Lent to become more gentle, benevolent, loving, and generous.