Thoughts on Fasting

The Diocese of Westminster Justice & Peace Commission is one of many groups and organisations praying and fasting for the climate every month in the run-up to the UN Paris Climate talks in December 2015. As we reflect on fasting during the season of Lent, we thought we’d share these thoughts from Joan Chittister, OSB:

Thoughts on Fasting

How do we explain the meaning of fasting in our own time? The answers ring with the kind of simplicity and depth common only to the holiest of disciplines. The fact is that the values of fasting strike to the heart of a person, sharpen the soul to the presence of God, and energize the spirit in a way engorgement never can.

Fasting calls a person to authenticity. It empties us, literally, of all the non-essentials in our lives so we have room for God. It lifts our spirits beyond the mundane.

Fasting confronts our consumer mentality with a reminder of what it is to be dependent on God. It reminds us that we are not here simply to pamper ourselves. We are, indeed, expected to be our brother and sister’s keeper. We know why we are hungry. We voluntarily gave up the food we could have had. But why are they hungry? Where is the food they should be eating? And what can we do to fill them now that we are done filling only ourselves?

Fasting opens us to the truth. It makes space in us to hear others, to ask the right questions, to ingest the answers we have been too comfortable to care about for far too long. It makes room for adding “to our service a bit more prayer and reading and almsgiving,” as the Rule of Benedict says.

Fasting requires us to develop a sense of limits. No, we may not have it all, do it all, and demand it all. Our needs do not exceed the needs of others, and our needs may never become more important than theirs.

Fasting teaches us to say no to ourselves in small things so that we have the strength to say no to those people and systems and governments who want to use us to shore up their own power and profit despite the needs of others.