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Friday, February 27, 2004

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Isaiah 58:1-9
Psalm 51
Matthew 9:14-15

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growling stomachs and hungry minds

"Why do we fast, and You do not see it? afflict ourselves, and You take no note of it?" —Isaiah 58:3

On this third day of Lent and world-wide day of abstinence from meat, it is good to recall that Lent is not merely abstaining but also fasting, that is, limiting our intake of food and drink. Lent is a forty-day fast in imitation of Jesus' fasting in the desert (Mt 4:2).

Fasting must be done in the right spirit (see Is 58:3-4), but this right spirit should not substitute for fasting but authenticate it. For example, it's good to abstain from gossip, TV viewing, and other selfish pursuits. These things may need to accompany fasting, but they are not fasting, for fasting always entails the limiting of our food and drink. Let's not spiritualize fasting and take away its essential material element. Let's not spiritualize Christianity and forget its fundamental, incarnational essence. "Take note, the spiritual was not first; first came the natural and after that the spiritual" (1 Cor 15:46).

Let us have both a natural and a spiritual Lent. May our Lent be as physical as growling stomachs, hunger pains, and lost weight. May Lent then be as spiritual as repentance, reconciliation in relationships, and total commitment to the Lord. In this Lent, both "offer your bodies as a living sacrifice" and "be transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Rm 12:1-2).

Prayer:  Father, give me a fully human Lent.

Promise:  "Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed." —Is 58:8

Praise:  Whenever tempted to break her fast from eating sweets, Lucy murmured the little prayer: "Sweet Jesus, be with me."

Reference:  (For a related teaching, order our leaflet, The Secret of Fasting, or on audio AV 46-1 or on video V-46.)

Nihil Obstat:  Reverend Richard Walling, July 18, 2003

Imprimatur:  †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, July 24, 2003