Fasting isn\’t always about not eating food. It can mean giving up something we find pleasurable for the sake of refocusing on Christ. Something inside each of us desires to be our best selves. We get swept away in the daily comforts of our lives and we feel hazy or fuzzy or not quite strong or centered in our cores. We want to get raw.
So we look at our lives and we see what’s distracting us from growing in God. We assess what needs pruning. For me, it\’s my smartphone. After too many incidents of getting irritated when my children interrupted my reading of a great debate on Facebook or a really riveting article, I knew it was time to re-prioritize. It started feeling like there was never a time they weren\’t interrupting. The amount of attention-grabbing materials I could find on the internet via my phone is endless. My kids are not interrupting me. My phone addiction is interrupting my family. I felt enslaved to my pesky addiction.
In last Sunday\’s reading of Isaiah 58:1-9, God is asking us not to give up something for the sake of giving up something. Sometimes we tend to go through the motions and we wonder why nothing changes.
I heard it said twice in the last two days that if we are giving up something for Lent with no real thought put into it yet we are still nasty to our neighbor, we are not truly growing in virtue.
Additionally, if we find ourselves rationalizing ways to get things back into our lives, maybe we have taken on too much.
One Saint had a habit of smoking. Her priest told her not to quit smoking for Lent because she became unbearable and everybody else suffered around her. Maybe she had bitten off more than she could chew. Instead, he told her to increase her prayer life and pray about quitting. Eventually she discovered one day that she was able to look at her cigarettes and have zero desire to smoke. This is just an example.
The idea is to give up whatever is holding you back from growing closer to your purpose in Christ. It is better to look inward to bad spiritual habits we have acquired than to focus on physical habits we want to overcome- like biting fingernails or quitting smoking. Jesus is concerned with the heart. He wants to heal us of the thing that obstructs your access to Him. Anything that does has become an attachment, an idol and a hindrance. The type of fast that God desires is the one that will set us free:
Is not this the fast I choose; to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Isaiah 58:6
But there\’s more. What good is fasting, even from hindrances, if our faith produces no fruit? God wants to set us free so His light can fill that we may love more perfectly to be His hands and feet and voice to the world. This world is crying out for Christians who live the gospel and not just talk about it.
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to comber him,and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily, your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be you rear guard. Isaiah 58:7-8
Notice the passage talks about HEALING. The point of Lent is to turn back to God, let go of attachments and serve others so that WE MAY BE HEALED. What do you need to be healed of this lent?
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