I always wondered what value there is to fasting, and why it was always recommended by the Church. When I was a teenager in the seminary, I did fasting and all the other things that saints were good at, and never thought about what intrinsic value there might have been to those things. I never think of whatever they were way back then, but all I remember is that they were good exercises in discipline. I had such control I was like in training for the Olympics, but all those practices have long since gone by the wayside.
Jesus fasted for forty days, and I wonder what Jesus got out of fasting. He certainly didn’t need it, but he had to have some kind of motive for it. One thing it does do is sharpen your thinking ability as long as you don’t overdo the fasting. Your mind can concentrate better when you are trying to meditate, as you are not inclined drift off to sleep so easily. So, maybe Jesus felt he had to fast to discipline his human faculties for the long period of prayerful contemplation and communication with his Father.
Recently, with all the news about the tragedy in Haiti, and all the suffering there, I felt a bit guilty enjoying the nice life here, and I thought of fasting. Then, I asked myself what does fasting accomplish? It certainly doesn’t do anything for the people in Haiti. Then I thought, “Well, God does appreciate our gestures of goodwill, as insignificant as they might be, and Jesus did say that his disciples would fast after he left, and he does reward us for our little gestures of penance and good will, so I’m sure there is value in God’s eyes.” So, after supper, when I usually eat three cookies, now I eat only two. Big deal! I eat breakfast, and then I eat supper, and nothing in between, so I can’t do much there. And I can’t even feel proud that I’m doing something great, so I hope my simple little gesture is worth something. Nothing we ever do is worth much, but it’s the gesture of goodwill that has value to God, and every little gesture responds to what Saint Paul once said, “We must fill up in our own bodies the sufferings that are lacking in Christ.” Now there’s a mystery to try to figure out! How could anything be lacking in Christ’s sufferings, except that we are members of Jesus’ mystical body, and as members of his body, we too must share in his sufferings, and in the process help Jesus save souls that might not be otherwise be saved if we didn’t unite our sufferings and our prayers with his.
So, thank God he appreciates our littleness, and magnifies the value of the simple little things we do in Jesus’ name. Well, for past two hours I had been thinking what I could write tonight, and when I finally started typing, it’s nothing like what I had been thinking about for two hours.