The true meaning of fasting

This Ash Wednesday, and even this season of Lent, let us not only fast, but also return to the Lord and love Him, seek Him, and desire Him above all.
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Today is Ash Wednesday — the beginning of Lent and a day of fasting.

But, what does fasting really mean? Is it merely the act of eating only one full meal and two small meals? Is it total abstinence from food, from our vices, or from some activities? What should we really fast from?

The most important question is: “Why do we fast?” By answering this question, we will learn the true meaning of fasting.

The true meaning of fasting is desiring God above all.

That’s it. Period. Mic drop. That’s the whole essence of fasting. Isn’t it amazing that it is also the whole essence of life, of the Bible, of why Jesus came from heaven? That’s the whole essence of everything. 

We fast in order to remind ourselves to desire God above all.

When you go hungry and want some food badly, that’s the best time to remind yourself to love God more than satisfying your very basic need.

For many of us, desiring God over our daily meals is easy.

What is harder is desiring God above being able to eat in a fancy restaurant. When you keep on praying that you will one day be able to eat good food in a fancy restaurant but God doesn’t seem to answer your prayer, will you still continue to desire Him, to love Him, to trust Him?

What is harder is desiring God above our dreams. When you keep on praying for God to lead you to the right person, for God to give you a break in your career, or for God to bring you to places and countries you have never been to but God doesn’t seem to hear you, will you still continue to love Him?

What is harder is desiring the One whom we pray to above the things we pray for. If we are praying for healing and God does not give it to us, will we still trust in His will and love Him? Or will we break and complain?

We fast in order to remind ourselves to desire God above food, above our dreams, above our relationships, above the things we pray for, and even above our families.

The first reading truly encapsulates the essence of fasting:

“Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God.” — Joel 2:12-13

And like what Jesus said in today’s Gospel reading, let us fast not to follow tradition or to be seen by others, but to truly return to the Lord:

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” — Matthew 6:16-18

When we fast, we will also realize that it is truly God who provides. When we fast, we will learn to trust in His will.

This Ash Wednesday, and even this entire season of Lent and beyond, let us not only fast, but also return completely to the Lord and love Him, seek Him, and desire Him above all.

 

P.S. Sharing with you two free Bible studies that helped me understand the biblical bases of the Sacraments and of our devotion to the Blessed Mother. You can access them for free this season of Lent here.