No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great. — John Chrysostom
Reflection: The Glory of Fasting
The Park Forum
Faith, like generosity, grows as a person transfers focus outside of them self. When generosity and faith combine a person experiences the glory of the two greatest commandments: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.
The season of Lent, which begins tomorrow, is marked by fasting. “In Scripture, we see that fasting is a sign of sorrow over sin, a sign of repentance, and an aid to prayer,” observes Kevin P. Emmert. Yet if these were the only reasons to fast it would not have made sense for Jesus to fast 40 days before beginning his ministry—Christ had no sins for which to be sorrowful or repentant and lived his life in direct communion with the Father.
In his article—titled as a call to action—A Lent That’s Not For Your Spiritual Improvement, Emmert writes,
The truth is Christ didn’t forego privileges and battle for humanity for only 40 days.… Christ made himself nothing by becoming a servant. He did not use his divinity to his own advantage, as Paul put it, but largely to walk a life-long path of self-sacrifice.
The ancient Jews expected the Messiah to grow in power and control—instead Jesus grew in wisdom and favor with God and man. They expected him to conquer and overthrow—instead he sacrificed and served. Emmert continues, “If we want to imitate his life and his fast to the degree we can, then we should consider fasting on behalf of others—that is, for their benefit and blessing.”
The glory of fasting is found in what it does for others. Maybe we fast from meat or coffee and donate the money we would have spent to organizations who feed the poor. Maybe we give up plastic for the benefit of the environment and those most harmed by its decay. Maybe we abstain from time-wasters like online video-streaming or non-essential iPhone apps to invest in relationships we don’t normally have margin for. Regardless of the steps we take by God’s grace, Emmert reflects,
Lent is not just about personal holiness. Nor is it about pursuing simplicity of life for its own sake. Lent also has a remarkable social dimension. As pastor and columnist Chuck B. Colson said, “Lent gives us the opportunity to move towards our neighbor in charity” because it “emphasizes simplicity for the sake of others.”
The Call to Prayer
Search for the Lord and his strength; continually seek his face. — Psalm 105:4
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.