Fasting for What?

Rev. Troy Medlin

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:1-4)

Hunger pangs. As someone who has never had to worry about where my next meal was going to come from or whether I could afford to go grocery shopping when my pantry is getting sparse, the hunger pangs I have experienced have been quite minimal. They have been fleeting. Still, all of us know hunger pangs. We all know what it is like to be hungry.

Fasting as a spiritual practice helps us get outside of ourselves, reminding us of our dependence on God. A reminder that we not only rely on food for our sustenance but on God who provides us our very life and each breath. Fasting frees us to turn our eyes up to God and to spend time focusing on God’s word, which feeds not only our bodies but our souls, too, strengthening us day by day. Fasting can be a refreshing reminder that we do not exist by our own efforts alone.

Fasting-induced hunger pangs for the children of God do not end there. They can also turn us in another direction: toward our neighbor. In baptism we become servants of all, especially the needy ones in our midst. If we fast, we do not fast for our own sake. Our fasting awakens us to the needs of others. We can allow those hunger pangs to draw our attention to those who lack daily bread. Our fasting can empower us to alleviate hunger here and around the world. As one prayer puts it, “May our fasting be hunger for justice.”

Prayer: Living bread, may the hunger pangs of our fasting awaken us to those around us, so that we might desire the food of justice until all have daily sustenance. Amen 

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