1. changing frequently, esp. as regards one’s loyalties, interests, or affection.
How is your loyalty to, interest in, or affection for fasting coming along?
When I was a kid in grade school, I gave up desserts during Lent because… well because you’re supposed to give something up for Lent, right? As I grew and my understanding didn’t, my Lenten penance was definitely fickle—not much loyalty, interest or affection for it at all. How about you?
Fasting…proving our love for God?
At some point in my early years of seminary, that began to change, and here was the pivot point: I realized for the first time that fasting isn’t something I do for God. It isn’t the way I earn some grace or blessing or bonus points in my spiritual life. Fasting isn’t some way of “proving” my love for God. Rather fasting (and other types of voluntary penance) is a call from God for my benefit. God has a gift for me (many gifts!), but He sees that I am resistant and inattentive to them. So in His love for me He calls me to fast, that by fasting I may be better disposed to receive the gift (the many gifts!) He has been trying to give me all along.
“In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.” -1 John 4:10 (RSV)
Fasting is not something we do for God; rather, it disposes us to receive the gift (the many gifts!) He desires to give us.
Ask God: “What grace, blessing, gift do you desire to give me during Lent?”
So for almost fourteen years as a priest now, I hear the same question as each Lent approaches: what are you going to give up do for Lent? Before you entertain or ask that question, I beg you to first ask another question—not of yourself, your friends, your family—but of God: God, what is the grace (blessing, gift) You most desire to give me this Lent? And wait to see what stirs in your heart. If our fasting is to be fruitful and not fickle, the voluntary penance we choose must be “harnessed” to a particular gift we sense God desires to give us. The fasting we do is a tangible reminder that registers in our physical senses to exercise our desire to receive the intangible, spiritual good God desires to give.
Let me give you an example: I like Coca Cola. A lot. So when I fast, giving up Coke is a really good specific fast. Because I miss it. So when I’m eating pizza, which for me is almost unimaginable without Coke, and I go to grab my glass full of … water (??!!), I am given a VERY tangible reminder. Where is my Coke, and why is there water in my glass? Oh yeah, that’s right—I’m fasting. And why am I fasting? Because I know in my heart God desires to bless me with greater patience, or wisdom, or self- control, or healing of a painful relationship, or deliverance from resentment, or the gift of prophecy, or the conversion of my roommate, or freedom from a pattern of sin, or peace in the Middle East, or clarity in my discernment or…or…or… Dear Lord, open my heart to the gift of patience You desire to bestow upon me, Amen. And I’m back to my next bite of pizza. Believe me, that tangible reminder can lead me to seek, knock, and ask for the grace for which I’m fasting quite a few times in just a few pepperoni slices.
Freedom from Fickleness
Since I’ve started asking God what gift (so many gifts!) He wants to give me, and then embarked on fasting of one sort or another as a tangible reminder to seek, knock, and ask for God’s freely offered gift, my fasting has gone from fickle to fruitful. Fantastically fruitful. I fast frequently and in a bunch of different ways. During Lent. On every Friday (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1438). And just random days or weeks in the year when I sense God’s desire to bless me, and see my own resistance, inattentiveness… my fickleness in the face of His Goodness.
I will pray and fast this week for you who will read this post, that you may know God’s desire to bless you with so many gifts, and will discover a whole new interest, loyalty, and affection for the practice of fasting. (Coca-Cola Company stock will be plummeting…)
Have I approached Lent in the past trying to prove my love for God?
What is the grace blessing, gift God most desires to give me this Lent?