Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5.15
And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
Reflection: Binging on Fasting
By John Tillman
Though our culture is turning against public religious displays and actions motivated by religious faith, there is one spiritual practice we love to binge on—fasting. In a world of one-upmanship, you can’t find a better way to prove you are trying harder than a fast.
Fasting is perhaps one of the least understood and most abused spiritual disciplines. As Richard Foster said, “Because of the secularization of modern society, ‘fasting’ is usually motivated either by vanity or by the desire for power.”
Despite the misunderstandings of the spiritual purpose of fasting or the particularities of its function, people universally recognize that it is a marker of spirituality. Even non-believers automatically connect fasting with spirituality.
It’s easy to understand why. In a culture obsessed with consumption, lack of it, even for a short period, stands out. But just because our culture recognizes that fasting is a spiritual practice doesn’t mean we understand it.
We misunderstand fasting to such a level that we have co-opted the concept to create new opportunities for consumption, even within the church. Fasting regimens—rebranded using the quasi-spiritual term, cleanses—are billed and sold as fixes for anything from headaches to cancer.
Asceticism is becoming cool and the best way to be an ascetic in Western culture is to pay a lot of money for expensive new products instead of whatever the “unenlightened” people are eating and drinking. This consumerist approach helps fasting fit into the American spiritual narrative of moralistic self-sufficiency.
Our society gorges on the faux-spirituality of Instagramming our use of the latest cleanse product or success pics of ripped abs or of tranquil meditative states induced by the latest faddish purge/cleanse/fast that has a cool hashtag.
As we continue through Lent—which for many is a partial fast of some kind or another—moving toward the celebration of Easter, may fasting be more to us than a religious stunt.
May we be more thrilled by gaining a better connection to Christ than by losses on a scale. May our lack aid us in leaning into Christ’s sufficiency. May our hunger lead us to read from His holy Word. May our pangs of emptiness lead us to make more room in our hearts and lives for the Holy Spirit and for the community of his Holy Church.
Prayer: The Prayer Appointed for the Week
O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant that I, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear my cross, and be changed into his likeness…
– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.