You are to fast every day, except Sundays, from the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross until Easter Day, unless bodily sickness or feebleness, or some other good reason, demand a dispensation from the fast; for necessity overrides every law.
– Rule of St. Albert, No. 16
“Our teacher said that we are not supposed to eat meat, Brother,” Jessly, a grade five student, once told me when I told him to eat the food prepared by his grandmother.
“Why is that?” I asked.
“Because we just had our forehead marked with ashes,” he innocently said, although deep inside I knew that he just does not want to eat his food.
Fasting is one of the most overused religious practices and many people make it as an excuse for vanity, or worse, when they want something from God. Prayer and fasting, they say, is the surest way for God to listen to our prayer.
Fasting is more than that. It is not a magic formula to get God to answer.
Fasting is an expression of love for our Lord, and as the prophet Isaiah would tell us, what the Lord desires is for us to fast not simply by missing on food but by bringing His justice to the people, by showing everyone His mercy and compassion, by becoming ourselves agents of God’s mercy and compassion.
Isaiah said: “(By) sharing your bread with the hungry and to bring the oppressed and homeless into your own home, in clothing those who are naked without neglecting your own people….”
God does not need us to do sacrifices, but the sacrifice that we do through fasting is but an expression of love, of being one with the passion and the sufferings of Christ. We want to experience the cross in the hope of understanding the love of God.
Fasting should bring us to this understanding and create a conversion in us wherein it becomes much easier for us to be a true neighbor.
How do I express my sacrifice for the Lord?
“Is not this rather the fast which I desire: break unjust fetters, untie the thongs of the yoke, set free the oppressed and break every yoke? Does it not consist perhaps in sharing your bread with the hungry and to bring the oppressed and homeless into your own home, in clothing those who are naked without neglecting your own people?”
Dearest Lord, grant me a heart of sacrifice, willing to give myself for the sake of the other. Let me be an instrument of your love, Lord. Amen.