Thursday, October 19, 2006

Only God Satisfies our Hunger and our Thirst

Once again dear friends, Friday is almost upon us. Sunset is at 6:41 pm this evening, thus, liturgically, beginning Friday. With this week commemorating World Food Day, it seems opportune to either fast or abstain from meat and give our savings to the poor. I recently found a great on-line resource on these issues that reference relevant Church Documents Fast and Abstinence on the Women for Faith and Family website. To make it as covenient as possible, here are the basics, but remember it is not a matter of law, but a choice made freely. If you do it as a matter of law, you are missing the whole point and will derive very little, if any, benefit from it. Again, fasting and/or abstinence should also include prayer and almsgiving.

Fasting is only applicable for those who have reached the age 18 and are not yet 60. Abstinence means no meat on those days for those who are age 14 and older. It is my personal opinion that children younger than 14 will not suffer from abstaining from meat for 24 hours. General canon law says that all Fridays are days of abstinence -- no meat -- but if you want to eat meat, you should substitute some other form of penance. Fasting can include one small meal, but still no meat. If you are just beginning to fast, try it for 12 hours, eat a small meal, then go another 12 hours. In that way you can, in just a few weeks, should you choose, go 24 hours drinking only water. Should you choose to fast completely (i.e., no food or drink) know what you are doing. It is possible and people do it, but like anything else physical, you will need to train and build up to it. Now, if you have health reasons that fasting would exacerbate DO NOT FAST! However, you can still abstain, eat simpler meals, pray, and give to the hungry and needy. Like kneeling in Church, fasting is not a case where he who fasts longest and more completely wins. God is our focus, worshipping Him and drawing closer to Him. These practices are to allow us to focus more completely on God, to increase our hunger and desire for God, to literally hunger and thirst for holiness, knowing that, in God, we will be satisfied (Matt 5,6).

Of course, we can fast/abstain from other things besides food. For example, alcohol and, for married couples, by mutual consent, sexual relations. If you're not married sexual relations should not be an issue for you. If it is, you have more urgent spiritual issues than fasting and abstaining from meat, but do so as anyway. Nonetheless, God loves you and wants to show you His mercy. So, examine your life and go to confession. This is not a bad idea for any of us, even if we are not struggling with sins of grave matter.

Again, you might break your fast (this is just a suggestion) by attending Friday evening Mass and receiving the True Bread and Cup of Life. Also, pray. You can use the Jesus Prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner". And/or you can pray the Sorrowful mysteries of the rosary. Let us, in the words of St. Paul, "to offer [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, [our] spiritual worship". In so doing may we "be transformed by the renewal of [our] minds, that [we] may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect"
(Rom 12,1-2).

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