the lenten fast
"They shall not eat." —Jonah 3:7
During Lent, the Lord calls us to imitate Him when He fasted forty days in the desert (Mt 4:2). Fasting is limiting our intake of food and/or drink. A diabetic, an elderly person, or an expectant mother can fast by just skipping dessert or not eating between meals. Fasting is not a matter of quantity but of obedience to the Lord.
Nevertheless, the Lord often calls His people to fast extensively. For example, the king of the Ninevites proclaimed to his people a fast in which nothing was eaten or drunk for presumably a short time (Jon 3:7). Esther and the Jews of the city of Susa were called to eat and drink nothing for three days (Est 4:16). The soldiers of Judas Maccabeus fasted to the degree that they felt too weak to fight (1 Mc 3:17). Paul mentioned his "frequent fastings" (2 Cor 11:27), and Jesus began His public ministry by fasting for forty days and nights.
For most Christians, Lent is the kind of fast in which we substantially limit our intake of food. What the Church has taught for centuries — only one full meal for each of the forty days of Lent — is probably still God's will for most Christians. Make this your way of fasting during Lent unless the Lord has specifically given you other directions on fasting.
Prayer: Father, use my fasting to drive out demons (Mt 17:21, NAB).
Promise: "For at the preaching of Jonah they reformed, but you have a greater than Jonah here." —Lk 11:32
Praise: Rob fasts weekly for his wife's welfare. Their marriage is stronger than ever.
Reference: (For a related teaching, order our tape on The Secret of Fasting on audio AV 46-1 or video V-46.)
Rescript: †Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, July27, 2010
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