This week our focus at school is fasting. Fasting is one of those religious practices that is not fully understood. When we practice it with our hearts focused on God, it is a beautiful way to grow in our faith while spiritually helping others. The goal of fasting is to help us to embrace God’s will in our lives.
St. Thomas Aquinas taught that fasting helps with three things: teaching restraint, raising the mind to God, and making reparation for our sins. In his 2019 Lenten message, Pope Francis explained that fasting means: ‘Learning to change our attitude towards others and all of creation, turning away from the temptation to ‘devour’ everything to satisfy our voracity and being ready to suffer for love, which can fill the emptiness of our hearts.” In other words, fasting reminds us of our need to give of ourselves to God and others, becoming servants like him.
Though we often think of fasting from food, fasting can actually involve abstaining from any good. For example, this week, middle school students have given up talking in the hallway on Monday. By fasting from this, the students are reminded of the need to control themselves, and when they feel this longing they are reminded that the only thing that can fill the longing of the heart is the love of God.
How can we apply this in our family? Here are two ideas. Perhaps instead of going out to eat, your family could have a simple meal of soup and bread at home and give the money you would have spent at the restaurant to a charity. Your family could give up an hour of television and instead play a game or say a prayer as a family. In any of these sacrifices, consider a prayer intention that you have and offer the discomfort to God for that intention. By giving up these things with love, we remind ourselves and our children that only God can fill our hearts. [Read more about fasting]