Fasting: Part 7
In December of 2016, I launched this blog in the wake of a social media stir created by a photo I had taken at the Grotto. Although I had already set up the template for “Thoughts from the Side of the House,” it had remained unused for months as I never got around to launching it. Once the photo started gaining so much attention (10s of thousands of likes) across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and platforms I had never even heard of, it was important for me to have a place to explain the context of the photo and all the developments around it. If you’re reading these words right now, chances are you found this blog because of that photo. If you’re not familiar with it, here is the original post.
Well, it’s time to disclose another piece of information about this photo, something that I’ve been hesitant to mention up to now, but something that now seems important to say. When I took this photo, I was in the midst of an intense time of prayer and fasting. During Advent 2016, I was fasting on liquids only during Mondays through Saturdays, then eating on Sundays. I was begging God to use me to spread His love throughout the world. I was praying that my life could bear more fruit for Him. This photo directly answered my prayer. At the time of this photo I had been a “worker in the vineyard of the Lord” for over 20 years. All of my efforts combined in that two plus decades of work cannot compare to the impact this photo has had on people. Of that I am certain.
I hope you can understand why I didn’t mention this before. It’s generally not a good idea to announce publicly when you are fasting. It runs the risk of drawing attention to yourself in a show-offy sort of way. Scripture admonishes us not to perform religious practices for the purpose of public attention or praise. At the time I posted the photo, I was so overwhelmed by the response, and so awestruck at how the image of Our Lady had appeared without any knowledge of her presence when I took it, that my own fasting didn’t seem like something that was pertinent. But it does now. Since then, I have grown in my understanding and faith.
So why am I sharing this today?
Well, I’ve been posting a lot this Lent about the forgotten power of fasting. In the past several years, I have been deeply disappointed by our Church and at the same time absorbed by a growing awareness that a lack of even the most basic fasting is a major obstacle to the Church’s renewal. I have also become increasingly aware that I personally am being called to help remedy this alarming deficiency. But the only way for me to help others is to share examples of the all the blessings available through fasting. I need to encourage others. Therefore, I need to share what I have learned.
Fasting done correctly (see Isaiah 58 – more on this in a future post I promise!) is like tapping into an earthly portal that more quickly and easily connects you to the Divine. By emptying yourself of food, you literally make room for God. You seek Him more fervently. Your body pines for Him. When you reach this state of a sustained focus on inviting the Holy Spirit to come into your life, then the Holy Spirit is able to give you things that otherwise you’d miss. Who then can be surprised that the “spouse of the Holy Spirit,” the Blessed Virgin Mary, should appear in my photo under these circumstances? Through acts of prayer, fasting and mercy, I was inviting her to do something great without even knowing it. That was not clear to me at the time. But it is now.
Listen friends, fasting is essential to the Christian life. It’s in scripture. It’s in our tradition. Fasting is on a par with prayer and almsgiving (mercy). By praying, fasting, and having mercy, you remove the barriers against receiving the grace of the Holy Spirit. When you do this, all sorts of good things will happen all around you. So please, everyone reading this right now: Pray! Fast! And have mercy!