Why do you fast?
Fasting is both an Old Testament and New Testament practice. We mostly look to it as imitating Christ's 40 days of temptation and trial in the desert and use it as a time for spiritual discipline. There is a hope ultimately at the end of a fast we are closer to Christ and less attached to our sin.
Every year I am always blown away how people interpret fasting, cater it for themselves, and think out of the box. I am very much a creature of habit, so when you say Lent I say "bye-bye sweets and meat on Friday" and that's it . . . and not to say that giving up those things isn't hard, because they are! I have always thought of fasting as a time of giving up some food group, and have never thought about it as anything else.
So I am struck by today's reading and Gospel, harping on that fasting thing and making me really think . . ."Why do I fast?"
I want Lent to mean something. I want my fast to mean something. I want Christ to truly mean something. So I look at my life closely and think how can my fast reflect my love for Christ.
We all approach lent differently and therefore fasting looks different for every person, so let's break it down to better understand . . . .
How do we fast?
1. Optimistic Traditional—giving up a food group or something that is consumed. This helps us not be dependent or controlled by any substance. It gives us a discipline in an area that can very easily get out of control. It brings to light how often we think of this substance and/or indulge in it and pauses to reflect how then to control it better in our lives. Also when we reach for this substance in our normal routine of the day and to choose to fast from it, we also are reminded to pray and ask Jesus to fill in that space.
2. Repentant Traditional—also gives up a food group, or potentially something else, but the focus is on being repentant for our sins. Most of the time the substance being fasted is very difficult and is meant to be a reminder of our need to purge the sin out of our life. The focus is to make a sacrifice in order to make ourselves worthy of Christ's ultimate sacrifice.
3. Self Help Book—this is a way to approach Lent and fasting as a time to really highlight a bad habit that needs correction or establishing a completely new habit. Both of these things are meant to improve the quality of life and living in order to honor God and live this life He has given us with a more respectful and grateful mindset.
Bad habit: In college, one year, I fasted from snoozing my alarm (my snooze would sometimes be for another 30 minutes, yikes!), so that I would get up right away and start my day . . . and maybe even set the alarm 5 minutes earlier in order to have enough time in the morning for a prayer time!
Establishing a new habit: My husband and I one year gave up meat for all of lent, so essentially being vegetarians. This was to highlight our severe lack of vegetables in our diet, and force us to get more acquainted to vegetables well as be more comfortable using them in our everyday routine, in order to essentially be more healthy!
4. Fasting the Fast—this is a way to approach Lent as "adding" something "to do" in the routine of your life that enhances your spiritual life that is not a normal habit already. The focus of fasting then is not in giving up a material thing, but rather a fasting of your time, giving Christ more of your time, more of you.
Daily mass, routine reconciliation, adding prayer time, reading a spiritual book, habitual rosary
5. Go Big or Go Home—this is not for the faint of heart, but more for the thrill-seekers in life, those that have to go full throttle or not at all. They need to do something HUGE for God in order to really have a spiritual "shock" to allow their spiritual life to either be revived or be encouraged to go the next level.
Examples: *please note, I have not done any of these! way too crazy for me ;)
Giving up the comfort of your mattress . . . hello hardwood floor
Giving up the luxury of a hot shower . . . nothing wakes you up quicker then the adrenaline rush of a cold shower
Giving up your shoes, like literally going barefoot . . . extreme. You get the idea.
6. Indecisive—all of the Lent is spent thinking of what you should do for Lent and then Lent is over, you feel horrible and swear to get it right next year.
So these are some ways of how we fast, you might be #1 or #4, or a combo of a few or it fluctuates every year. Regardless of what kind of faster you are during lent, the question still remains . . . why do you fast? Is it another habit or routine? Because we should? That is just what Catholics do . . . .
The root of this question is personal. It depends entirely on your relationship with Christ.
So why don't you ask Him.
Happy Lent or Repentant Lent or Habit Forming Lent or Prayerful Lent or Abstaining Lent or BIG Deal Lent. Whatever your Lent is . . . have a Great One!
Cassie Kent is a wife, mom to two kiddos, loves to get a little crafty and even throws a monthly party celebrating the beauty of creativity. You can find out more about her here.