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Lenten Moment

March 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Catholic Catechesis

Fast and Abstinence

Fasting involves refraining for a time from the satisfaction of human needs, especially the needs for food and drink, as an expression of interior penance. This spiritual practice is a proven means of decreasing our selfishness while increasing our dependence upon God’s fatherly provision.

The only days on which Catholic adults (until the age of 60) are required to fast are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals, which, if added together, would not exceed the main meal in quantity. Snacks and meat are also prohibited on those days.

However, penance is an integral part of the Christian life, and fasting is a traditional, biblically based penitential practice strongly encouraged by the Church (see Catechism, no. 1434). Further, all Catholics fast for at least one hour before receiving Our Lord, the “Bread of Life,” in Holy Communion.

Catholics in the United States are required to abstain from eating meat not only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but also on all other Fridays during Lent. This explains all the Lenten “Soup and Stations Nights,” fish fries, and cheese enchilada sales!

May these and other Lenten observances of our own choosing bring home to us the Gospel truth that we do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Mt. 4:4).

Ash Wednesday

March 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Catholic Commentary


My most favorite quote from the Psalmist is:  O God, You are my God, whom I seek.  For You my flesh pines and my soul thirsts, like a dry weary land without water.

Are you hungry for God and do you thirst for his holiness? God wants to set our hearts ablaze with the fire of his Holy Spirit that we may share in his holiness and radiate the joy of the gospel to those around us. St. Augustine of Hippo tells us that there are two kinds of people and two kinds of love: “One is holy, the other is selfish. One is subject to God; the other endeavors to equal Him.” We are what we love. God wants to free our hearts from all that would keep us captive to selfishness and sin. “Rend your hearts and not your garments” says the prophet Joel (Joel 2:12). The Holy Spirit is ever ready to transform our hearts and to lead us further in God’s way of truth and holiness.

Why did Jesus single out prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for his disciples? The Jews considered these three as the cardinal works of the religious life. These were seen as the key signs of a pious person, the three great pillars on which the good life was based. Jesus pointed to the heart of the matter. Why do you pray, fast, and give alms—to draw attention to yourself so that others may notice and think highly of you—or to give glory to God? The Lord warns his disciples of self-seeking glory – the preoccupation with looking good and seeking praise from others. True piety is something more than feeling good or looking holy. True piety is loving devotion to God. It is an attitude of awe, reverence, worship and obedience. It is a gift and working of the Holy Spirit that enables us to devote our lives to God with a holy desire to please him in all things (Isaiah 11:1-2).

What is the sure reward which Jesus points out to his disciples? It is communion with God our Father. In him alone we find the fullness of life, happiness, and truth. The Lord wants to renew us each day and give us new hearts of love and compassion. Do you want to grow in your love for God and for your neighbor? Seek him expectantly in prayer, with fasting, and in generous giving to those in need.

The forty days of Lent is the annual retreat of the people of God in imitation of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness. Forty is a significant number in the scriptures. Moses went to the mountain to seek the face of God for forty days in prayer and fasting. The people of Israel were in the wilderness for forty years in preparation for their entry into the Promised Land.  Elijah fasted for forty days as he journeyed in the wilderness to the mountain of God. We are called to journey with the Lord in a special season of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and penitence as we prepare to celebrate the feast of Easter, the Christian Passover. The Lord gives us spiritual food and supernatural strength to seek his face and to prepare ourselves for spiritual combat and testing. We, too, must follow in the way of the cross in order to share in the victory of Christ’s death and resurrection. As we begin this holy season of testing and preparation, let’s ask the Lord for a fresh outpouring of his Holy Spirit that we may grow in faith, hope, and love and embrace his will more fully in our lives.

Let this be our prayer today and every day during Lent: “Lord Jesus, give us a lively faith, a firm hope, a fervent charity, and a deeper love of you. Take from us all lukewarmness in our meditation on your word, and all dullness in prayer. Give us fervor and delight in thinking of You and your grace, and fill us with compassion for others, especially those in need—that we may always respond with generosity.”