All that prayer and fasting and almsgiving: so annoying; so aggravating! ;-)
One of our elderly men in the parish was laughing throughout this homily, thinking that what it meant was – as he told someone after Mass – that there was no way that they’re ever going to move me from the parish!
I guess this homily is one of those realistic homilies. It made for a lot of laughter that was admitting that what I was saying is the truth of it.
Fasting with a spiritual purpose is different although overlapping in many ways with mere nutritional dieting, the latter of which can, by the way, also have profound spiritual motivations. After all, we are not Promethean Neo-Pelagian Self-Absorbed Self-Congratulatory Manichaean Gnostic haters of the physical universe, are we? No. After all, our Lord Jesus is Incarnate, the Divine Son of none other than the Immaculate Conception. Some quick points:
Fasting goes way back to the time of the formation of Adam in the Garden of Eden, even before his wife was brought forth. God commanded Adam not to eat that which would harm him, but gave him free will to do as he chooses. Adam did not fast from the forbidden fruit of perceiving any good as admixed with the evil of egoism except if he should assent to enmity over against Satan, assent to the redeeming, saving grace from the Son of the Mother of the Redeemer.
Adam was thrown out of the paradise aspect of the garden lest he attempt to grasp after that which he could not understand, the fruit of the tree of the living ones, feigning unsuccessfully that he could, by his own efforts, thereby gain eternal life, but instead necessarily only hurting himself all the more. Mercifully, the cherubim with the fiercely flaming sword were stationed to protect the tree of the living ones, converting his grasping into receiving if he should humbly so choose.
As we grasp and are then painfully routed by the ardent enmity over against Satan that is God’s love at the end of that sword of the fierce cherubim, we see our weakness all the more clearly, excruciatingly clearly, so that we might choose to give up trusting in our own efforts of grasping and be humbly content with receiving the fruit of the tree of the living ones, thankful for the eternal life we then receive.
But we are weak, and we fall when we choose to grasp instead of receive, setting up gods for ourselves and being delayed in entering the promised land. And we are pedagogically punished, analogously, for forty years of anguish in the desert, learning not to trust in ourselves but instead in the Suffering Servant.
That Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ, would, of course, found mercy on justice and stand in our stead, demonstrating this by being tempted for forty days and nights in the desert, fasting because we had instead glutted ourselves. In those temptations, those mind games of Satan, Jesus answered each and every time – no matter the temptation – with reverence before, obedience to, and love of His Heavenly Father. That is what we must learn: not mind games, but love. He, Love, conquers all.
Brought to the tree of knowing good admixed with evil, the cross, our Lord transforms it into the tree of the living ones, and after we fast in those days of His passion and death, He would have us feast on the fruit of the tree of the living ones, which then we don’t dare to grasp ourselves, but which we then, by His grace, that ancient enmity over against Satan, He would have us instead humbly receive, providing us thus with eternal life.
Fasting is not about saving ourselves, pretending to become ‘stronger’ (preparing for a bigger fall in our pride), but rather we begin, endure, and conclude fasting with friendship with Jesus:
Before: “Jesus, I’m terribly weak, and if I fast I get headaches and am at the ready to be testy with anyone in any situation. Jesus, please, in having me see how desperately weak I am, have me die to myself altogether so as to live only for you, trusting only in you.”
During: “Jesus, I trust in you… Jesus, I trust in you… Jesus I trust in you…”
After: “Thank you, Jesus, for teaching me so much about how you are our only Savior, and that to trust in you is to love you, and be brought by you to our Heavenly Father. Thank you, Jesus.”
I think it was reader sanfelipe007 who mentioned the joy of a young child jumping in the arms of a loving father, squealing with joy, and how much Jesus could not but immediately present such a soul as His gift to our Heavenly Father. I paraphrse. But I really, really like that… squealing with joy…