Fasting, Feasting, Sacrifice, Mercy

Mar 7, 2017

“Lent”, which means borrowed, aptly reminds us that who we are and what we have (except sin) belongs to God and that someday, like what our smart kindergarteners answered me last Ash Wednesday, we “give back” to God who “will repay everyone according to his works” (Romans 2:6).

Lent, in the sense that we have borrowed from God, is an action! We are reminded of our Lenten action triangle: prayer, fasting (abstinence) and almsgiving (or better, works of mercy).

We do these not just because they are church regulations but precisely because they are holy actions, examples of Our Lord Jesus Himself: “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted [and prayed] for forty days and forty nights …” (Matthew 4:1-2) and “He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people” (Matthew 4:23).

We do them, more so, because we desire to “give back”, “love back”, share with Jesus the Great Loving Sacrifice He has wrought for our redemption! When we offer something to Jesus, when we commit ourselves to Him, it is we who “grow all the more in grace” (Cf. Preface, Weekday in Ordinary Time IV). To offer God something beautiful is for us to grow in love (and mercy). 

Some firsthand canonical reminders on who and how we do fasting and abstinence:

Canon 1250. The penitential days and times in the Universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent. [Because Our Lord Jesus died on a Friday.]

Canon 1251. Abstinence from meat […] is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Canon 1252. The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their [eighteenth year], until [their fifty-ninth year]. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.

Canon 1253. The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.

A Pastoral Note! Last March 3rd, Archbishop Gomez granted dispensation from abstinence to the faithful of Los Angeles to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day on March 17th which this year falls on a Friday. Enjoy your corned beef and cabbage! However, if a Catholic makes the choice not to abstain from meat, then some other penance of choice is to be observed in honor of the Passion and Death of the Lord on the Cross [that is, works of mercy].

In conclusion, Our Lord taught us the goal, the fruit of our fasting and abstinence: “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” (Matthew 9:13)

Fasting is not a “one good deed practiced” but a way of life after Jesus. We live simply free from inordinate attachments so that we can be free for God alone.

Fasting and abstinence is not merely closing our eyes to food or minimizing our use of gadgets or refraining from “things”. The point is not closing but opening , opening ourselves to God and neighbor. It is not about “more” but “better”, better availability to God and His ways. 

Fasting and abstinence is not just refraining from “things” but frequenting the font of Life, Life Himself Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom of the wedding feast!

FASTING is a LIFESTYLE OF SIMPLICITY realizing that we can live even without “this or that”, that we can let go what we do not really need and still, we are (truly) alive, happy and OK because God will always take care of me!

Fasting this Lent teaches us to open our HEART to God, our HANDS to others.

You see! Fasting can be not just seasonal but a lifestyle and Lent reminds us that indeed it could be!


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