Tbelow is a meme going roughly the Internet about fasting that has been attributed to Pope Francis, though I’ve seen similar things from before his pontificate so I don’t understand whether the Pope actually said this or not. It’s an admonition of sorts, telling us just how we really ought to be fasting.

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It states, “Do you desire to fast this Lent?” It then offers us a list of what we should fast from, which incorporate points like:

Fast from hurting words and also say type wordsQuick from sadness and also be filled via gratitudeRapid from anger and also be filled through patienceRapid from worries and have trust in GodQuick from complaints and also contemplate simplicityFast from bitterness and also fill your hearts with joyRapid from selfishness and also be compassionate to othersQuick from grudges and be reconciled

I admit to having blended feelings around this type of thing. On the one hand also, it’s easy to discover criticism via some of what this list tells us. For instance, sadness is not the oppowebsite of gratitude. Sadness is an emovement, and also it’s not wrong to feel sad if somepoint sad happens. Even Jesus wept when Lazarus passed away. Being sad doesn’t intend you are ungrateful. And you can’t command also anyone — yourself had — to speak feeling sad.

But the list does have actually most good points. We shouldn’t say hurtful words. We shouldn’t comordinary so much, or be selfish, or hold grudges. We must be compassionate, and also patient, and also joyful. But is this really fasting?

My primary criticism with this type of thing is that it suggests tright here is somepoint Pharisaical around good old-fashioned fasting from food. In the Catholic Church that implies limiting yourself to one meal a day on Ash Wednesday and also Good Friday, and not eating meat on Fridays during Lent. Many Catholics pick to deny themselves by offering up various other foods in the time of this time, such as desserts or dairy, or take on other forms of bodily penance favor just taking cold showers.

This type of bodily self-denial touches us in a really visceral method. It teaches us to deny our bodily passions and also base instincts. It reminds us that comfort and also pleasure are not the greatest products. But is it wrong to emphasis on physical self-denial? Are we doing somepoint wrong if we quick from meat quite than fasting from anger?

I will periodically hear civilization say things like, “I’m giving up gossip for Lent.” Well that’s great that you are offering up gossip, because gossiping is sinful. But that’s referred to as repentance, not fasting. Repentance is turning amethod from something evil in order to turn towards the excellent. Fasting, on the other hand, is expected to be a sacrifice, and sacrifice involves offering up something excellent, not somepoint evil.

When God calls for sacrifice, he always demands the finest. He calls for an unblemished lamb, not the lame and also sickly one. He was pleased via Abel’s sacrifice, bereason Abel readily available his initially fruits, while Cain readily available God what was left over.

But then we have actually this reading from Isaiah 58, which appears to be making the exact same allude as the list I check out. But — no surpclimb here — God’s word is a little bit even more nuanced than an Net meme. After admonishing the people for fasting while delivering out their own searches, driving their laborers, and quarreling and fighting, God says:

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting complimentary the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your breview through the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clopoint the naked once you watch them, and not turning your back on your very own (Is 58:6–7).

God doesn’t say not to fast. He calls us to be righteous as soon as we rapid. He calls us to work-related for justice and also to free the oppressed. He calls us to take treatment of one an additional as we are fasting. He doesn’t say not to fast from food or exercise various other develops of bodily self-denial. In reality, in today’s gospel reading, Jesus claims, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken amethod from them, and also then they will fast” (Mt 9:15).

But for our quick to be a pleasing sacrifice before God, what we market hregarding be great. And what we offer to God by our fasting isn’t really the meat or the dessert or whatever else we provide up. What we market God is ourselves. So we need to make of ourselves a pure supplying.

This is why the Church teaches that our fasting is to be accompanied by prayer and also works of charity. This is what makes the difference between fasting and also a diet plan. We’re not doing it to lose weight or to punish our bodies. We perform it as penance and a spiritual sacrifice.

If we quick while living in a soul of injustice and also ingratitude, then it will be prefer we check out in the Psalm, “For you are not pleased via sacrifices; should I sell a burned providing, you would certainly not accept it” (Ps 51:18). But if we purify ourselves through repentance, prayer, and charity, then we can say, “My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and also humbled, O God, you will certainly not spurn” (Ps 51:19).

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So as we embark upon this seachild of self-denial and also penance, let us take treatment that our fasting is accompanied by prayer and functions of charity. These three things go together, favor the three legs of a stool. Take one ameans and also the various other 2 aren’t effective. Let’s be mindful of the need to purify ourselves both body and also heart, so that we have the right to make of ourselves a sacrifice pleasing to the Lord.