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The value of fasting

Ash Wednesday signals the beginning of Lent, a season of fasting and sacrifice
Ash Wednesday signals the beginning of Lent, a season of fasting and sacrifice
Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” - Matthew 9:14-15

It is human nature that the body makes a lot of demands. It needs to be fed, to be clothed, to be cared for. The basic needs revolve around tending the body but man is more than just the body. Man has a mind and a soul. It is easy to be fixated in the needs of the body and forget about the needs of the mind and the soul. The mind is where the will seats. True inner peace lies when the body, mind and soul act in perfect unity.

Usually the body is oppressive and dictates the mind. The person with a weak mind will have a weak resolve. The person will fall into all sorts of addictions and pleasure-seeking behavior that harms the body, mind and spirit. The spirit is the gentle part that remains silent. It does not impose. Only if the mind allows it to dominate will it be able to manifest its power. How then can we strengthen the mind so that it will choose what is good and not bad, what is right and not wrong and allow the spirit to rule the whole being?

Fasting is a way to weaken the body so that the will becomes stronger. Fasting will tell the body that it does not rule, that it cannot dictate. Fasting imposes discipline. It tames the wild animal within. When the mind is able to control the body, the mind can choose to listen to the gentle prodding of the spirit. As the spirit claims stronghold of the person’s being, it is able to put order and peace in a person’s life.

You need to nourish the mind, otherwise the will weakens. Prayer and meditation serve to strengthen the will. It allows the spirit to rule over the mind and the body. It allows the spirit to take control. Spiritual reading is of essence in nurturing the mind. One must devote at least 30 minutes each day to feed the mind with things that would strengthen the will. Left on our own resolve, it is easy fail. One needs to constantly nurture the mind with positive thoughts, inspirations, and uplifting motivations. What better resource than the scriptures and writings of the saints.

As Christians, we fast because we wanted to grow spiritually and be closer to Jesus. If the act of fasting leads us to become quarrelsome and annoying, then we misunderstand the spirit of fasting. Fasting is supposed to make us into better persons. It is supposed to prune us of the unwanted – whether it’s the unwanted weight, unwanted habit, unwanted desires – it is supposed to grant us a healthy spirit.

Still not sure what to give up for Lent? Devote a few silent moments in prayer. In the light of God’s love, it is easy to see what areas in our lives we need to work on. Jesus is our Savior. He can only save us if we offer that part of our life that is in dire need of saving. If we give it up to Him, then He can bring wonders in our lives. We will learn that when we lose ourselves in Him, we will actually find our better selves.