Isaiah 58: 1-9
Matthew 9: 14-15


Emerging from the December holiday season into a new year, media advertising along with our recent gatherings have all been based around food. Advertising focuses on unrealistic goals of shaping our bodies to look like Barbie or Ken arise with a new year revision, entertaining the notion of denying ourselves food to fast track our vision only to be disheartened a few days in…..our secular world call this diet fasting.

Today’s readings gift us a relief of sorts. With Lent around the corner, the term fasting will be heard more frequently, just as John’s disciples question, we too question ‘what fasting is’?

I think, in short, fasting is a spiritual discipline feeding our souls, while we deprive our bodies. It is not to impress God or others, rather it is a tool to bring us closer to God. Without prayer, fasting is simply a diet! We have to commit to praying and meditating too.

John Piper writes in ‘A Hunger for God’, “When midmorning comes and you want food so badly that the thought of lunch becomes as sweet as a summer vacation, then suddenly you realise, “Oh, I forgot, I made a commitment. I can’t have that pleasure. I’m fasting for lunch too.” Then what are you going to do with all the unhappiness inside? Formerly, you blocked it out with the hope of a tasty lunch. The hope of food gave you the good feelings to balance out the bad feelings. But now the balance is off. You must find another way to deal with it.” (Pg. 20)

In some traditions, people choose to fast on the forty weekdays that span the season, entering into the forty-day fast Jesus undertook in the wilderness. They might choose to take a break from chocolate, meat, social media, or other indulgences.

When we focus on fasting we deprive ourselves to delve deeper into connection with God, but sometimes we get distracted by the fasting itself. This leaves a question to form: What if it was less about fasting and more about feasting on the presence of God?

People who enter the practice of fasting often break their fast on Sundays, which are considered feast days of celebration throughout the year. Like the ebb and flow of ocean waves, there is a rhythm of fasting followed by feasting.  I hear this in Jesus message, as one to remember that the invitation is to fast from distractions and gather at the table to feast with our Saviour, the Bread of Life.  Let’s lift our eyes looking to the horizon, if we take on this spiritual discipline, focusing on the resurrection to come.

Sr Karen Englebretsen CP, Cross and Passion Sisters. blessed to be a spiritual care worker in the homeless sector in Melbourne.