The Pope on Fasting

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.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “The Pope on Fasting

  1. Past Elder

    This time, I’m with Bertrand Russell — can’t see much difference between eating little and seeing God and drinking much and seeing snakes.

    It’s just physiology.

  2. Schütz

    Don’t be such a sceptic, PE. Does it mean nothing to you that Jesus himself has commanded us to fast?

  3. Past Elder

    “Commanded” us to fast? He must be really steamed about the fish on Friday thing then!

  4. Louise

    Actually, to be honest, I find any discipline, spiritual or otherwise, problematic…

    Welcome to my life.

    Did not Our Lord Jesus Christ say “When you fast…”? It seems that He at least assumed we would fast.

    And you know, PE, that even now in the Catholic Church a day of fasting assumes you will have no more than two full meals.

    I am hopeless at fasting.

  5. Past Elder

    “when”, unless there is some sort of Roman “development” afoot here, is when.

    It does not state when when is, or command that there be one.

  6. Louise

    Your initial remark, PE, made me think you were disputing the fact of “when.” Naturally, you would dispute the when of “when.”

    inkeces: the first draft of local church boundaries.

  7. Fr John W Fenton

    As St Peter Chrysologus says, the fast begins in the Garden when the Lord commands Adam & Eve to abstain from the fruit on one particular tree so that they might enjoy all the other fruit in the Garden. And so, even then, it was not live to eat (what you choose) but rather eat (the fruit of the true of Life) to live.