Friday, September 2, 2016

Is abstinence and asceticism an occasional or regular part of your spirituality? - Daily Reflections September 2, 2016

Fasting has always been an essential element of any spirituality. Even before Jesus began His ministry, John the Baptist’s followers have been practicing a kind of fasting. The Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ time, too, were replete with fasting customs that included meticulous ceremonial washings and sanitation of jars and kettles.
       Last Lenten season, a friend of mine posted on his Facebook wall some rules on the age requirement for fasting and what kind of food to abstain from. In the comment section, I read someone say, “Is that really needed? Isn’t fasting from sin and evil the better kind of fasting Jesus wants during this Lenten season?” The comment received many likes. But, though well intentioned, there is much to correct in that statement.
       First of all, fasting from sin and evil is not to be done only during the Lenten season. We are to fast from all sin and evil all the time. First Thessalonians 5:22 says, “Abstain from every form of evil.” Notice it did not say, “Abstain from some form of evil,” or “during some times.” The real essence of fasting, therefore, is the willpower that abstinence from something good and pleasurable will give us. This is why we are asked to give up pleasurable activities or delicious food. They are not bad in themselves, but the self-mastery that follows from willful abstinence is the goal of all fasting. The occasional fasting from something good empowers us to regularly fast from sin and evil. This is why in Christian tradition, Fridays even outside of Lent are also considered days of penance and abstinence.
       I grew up in this tradition. Ever since, all of my Fridays have been meatless Fridays. So yes, while fasting from sin and evil is a greater intention, it does not cancel out fasting from food and anything that is pleasurable. In fact, it presupposes it.
          Enjoy your fast! Fr. Joel Jason
REFLECTION QUESTION: Is abstinence and asceticism an occasional or regular part of your spirituality?
“Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (Proverbs 25:28). With the discipline of an athlete, help me run the race of holiness. Amen.

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