Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Lenten Fast


When God created Adam and Eve, he placed them in the middle of a beautiful garden. They were given for food the fruits of all the trees in the garden. They named the animals there and such showed that these were tame and not wild. In today’s Gospel, the Lord Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert. There he was hungry…there was nothing to eat in the desert’s barrenness. Furthermore, the beasts were wild. In both cases, Satan came. Satan came into the garden and successfully seduced Eve and Adam into eating the forbidden fruit. Satan went into the desert and also tempted the Lord Jesus…he tempted the Lord and failed. The Lord Jesus did not fall into the trap of his seductions.

Is it not strange that when Adam and Eve were in comfortably living in the middle of the garden, when they were completely satisfied with so much fruits to eat…it was then that they fell for the temptations of Satan? Is it not strange that when our Lord was living in the harsh conditions of a desert, when he was so hungry on account of his 40 day fast…it was he who triumphed over the temptations of the devil? There seems to be an inverted correlation between the body and the spirit. When the body is pampered and satisfied, the spirit within it seems weak. However, when the body is suffering and weakened, the spirit within it seems strong. While it may be easy to attribute Christ’s victory over Satan’s temptation to his divine nature, let us not forget what St. Peter said: Christ suffered… His victory over the seductions of the devil came from the fact that he fasted and prayed. Adam and Eve on the other hand, fell for the temptation because they did not fast, that is, they did not take heed of the command of the Creator: of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, you will not eat. God commanded them not to eat of this particular food. He commanded them to fast from this particular fruit and they did not keep the fast. So, they failed.

Lent is a privileged season of fasting. Apparently, many of us have forgotten this on account of the relaxation of the laws of the Lenten fast. The obligation to fast is presently limited to 2 days: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. On account of this, many of us no longer fast during Lent apart from these days of obligatory fasting. Because of this, to the eyes of many, Lent has lost its intensity. Lent has lost its teeth. After all, if Lent were no longer a season of fasting, then what is it for? Are not the 40 days of Lent a commemoration of the 40 day fast of the Lord in the desert? How can we call Lent a commemoration of the 40 day fast of Christ if we no longer fast? Muslims take the Ramadan seriously because it is a month-long time of fasting. If Ramadan is no longer observed as a month of fasting, then what would it be for? The same logic applies to Lent: if Lent were no longer observed as a season of fasting, what would it be for? Remember that all the spiritual exercises of Lent (all those retreats and meditations, all those stations of the Cross and processions, all those ceremonies) will lose their intensity and perhaps, even their relevance, if we do not fast during Lent.

Therefore, allow me to remind you that while the Church has obligated us to fast only on 2 particular days, the Church has not prohibited us from fasting on the other weekdays of Lent. I even suspect that the relaxed laws of fasting provide us the opportunity to spiritually benefit more from fasting. I say this because when we fast even when not obligated by any Church law, then our fasting becomes more meritorious than doing it because we are obliged by the law.   By keeping the Lenten fast (even though we are no longer obligated by law to do it), we strengthen our spirits so that we may stand undaunted by the seductions of Satan. Remember that when the body is weak, it is then that our spirit becomes more open to the graces of God. Did not our Lord tell St. Paul: It is when you are weak, it is then that I am strong? Considering the difficult spiritual battle we have to face in the future, we need to be strong in spirit. Therefore, let us keep our Lenten fast. Let us keep in mind that Christ suffered for us so that he might lead us to God. Let us follow his lead by mortifying our flesh through fasting. “Put to death in the flesh, Jesus was brought to life in the Spirit.” In like manner, putting our flesh to death through fasting and self-denial, we know that we will also be raised to life in the Spirit. Therefore, let us seriously keep the Lenten fast. Together with the Lord Jesus, let us fast and pray so that we may not fall into temptation. “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”

Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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