Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, why? “Fasting is supposed to develop and teach discipline which can be used to resist overall temptations from evil…It is considered a way to de-tox and cleanse the ‘temple’ of the body…It is also a way to remind Catholics of the importance of humility and compassion for the poor, who did not historically eat as well as other social classes”. By not eating like we are accustomed to, we are supposed to be reminded of what the poor experience. “Fasting has never meant starvation, hunger-striking or dehydration.” Let us examine why we fast. We are in an environment of overabundance. The majority of us do not live in the state of poverty. During Lent we fast by limiting ourselves to the restrictions that were set up by the church. In doing this we are basically being asked to “walk in the shoes of the poor”. If we experience what other people, who are not as fortunate as we are, have to go through then we are more likely to heed the call to help them. We are asked to connect with the world outside of ourselves, outside of our own experience, so that we see the needs of others. Here are the guidelines for fasting that have been set up by the church:
• Fasting is observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday by all Catholics who are 18 years of age but not yet 59.
• Those bound by this rule may take one full meal. Two smaller meals are permitted, but eating solid foods between meals is not permitted. This means only one full meal, and only liquids like milk, tea, coffee, fruit juices, etc. between meals.
• The size of the full meal, and the two lesser meals, depends on the individual’s physical needs. One is excused from the whole obligation if his/her health or work would be seriously affected by this fast or abstinence.
We are encouraged to give the money that we saved from the meals to feed the poor.
The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on all Fridays during Lent in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. A person is excused from the whole obligation if his/her health or work would be seriously affected by his/her fast or abstinence. Many of us have had several different views of what “no meat” actually means. “No meat” actually means no meat of any kind (cow, goat, lamb, etc.), but it also means no chicken, turkey, or other animals. When Friday comes, many of us think of the lobster, shrimp or the huge fish platters that we are going to eat. The reason we are abstaining on Fridays is because we are in a state of mourning and reflection because Jesus died on a Friday. So the point is also not to eat extravagantly on this day because we are supposed to still be in the frame of mind that we are eating meagerly. So therefore, our meals for fasting and abstinence must reflect our willingness to make that sacrifice.
“Self denial helps us empty ourselves and make room for the Lord.”