I am constantly thrilled by small exegetical insights that are lying in wait to be discovered in the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI.
Today’s little “thrill” comes from the Holy Father’s 2009 Message for Lent, in which he focuses on fasting.
I have always found fasting a difficult spiritual discipline. (Actually, to be honest, I find any discipline, spiritual or otherwise, problematic…). Partly this is because while I know that Holy Mother Church – and indeed our Lord himself – urges her sons and daughters to fast for their spiritual welfare, I have probably not been convinced of it on a theological level.
Papa Benny masterfully connects two verses from Scripture:
Matt 6:18 “that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
John 4:34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.”
He points out that
the true fast is directed to eating the “true food”, which is to do the Father’s will.
In other words, to see fasting as simply abstaining from food gets it wrong. It is abstaining from eating one kind of food in order to concentrate on eating another sort of food, the “true food”, which is the will of the Father.
I get that.