Fasting, the Poor and Pope Benedict XVI
By Trey Gross
What marvelous wisdom the Church has in bestowing to us the season of Lent. Like fall, or winter, the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit helps us grow in ways that are impossible in other seasons.
We have been given Lent to again encounter the Word of God – Jesus in the flesh. The savior of man “knocks at the door of our hearts” (Revelation 3:20). We must make a decision to open the door to Christ – to give it all this Lent.
As many of us have heard through years of catechesis and long homilies, Lent “sets before us again three penitential practices that are very dear to the Biblical and Christian tradition: prayer, almsgiving, and fasting” (Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2009).
I will focus on fasting – something that is counter-cultural and involves discipline. Fasting, a practice done by Jesus and the early Christians, prepares us for the mission of being a Christian in daily life. Fasting should not be egotistically driven – not for the sake of “pushing the body beyond limits” or being “healthier” as some do in giving up unhealthy foods. Fasting, which no one claims is easy, instead allows us to listen to the son of God – “through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.” (Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2009)
Fasting also helps us serve the poor and comfort the afflicted. Fasting is a practice that we can participate in which makes a statement – that we desire not to be strangers with the poor, but to be in solidarity with them. “By freely embracing an act of self-denial for the sake of another, we make a statement that our brother or sister in need is not a stranger” (Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2009).
Do you want to come close to the poor? Take Benedict’s advice – make fasting a foundation for your Lent. Be prudent in how you decide to fast – but be bold. Find other people who will fast with you to keep you accountable.
This season of training in the Christian Life should be taken seriously. I hope you ardently and decisively choose to participate in Lent this year with prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. May God bless you!
To read Benedict XVI Message for Lent 2009, click here.
Trey Gross is from Mobile, Alabama and an alum of Auburn University. He enjoys sweet tea, hiking, the Rosary and running. To read more from Trey, see his blog, The Joyful Pilgrim.