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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Friday of the 27th week in ordinary time

Father Kevin MacDonald, C.Ss.R.

There are three things by which faith stands firm, devotion remains constant, and virtue endures. They are prayer, fasting, and mercy. Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains, mercy receives. Prayer, mercy, and fasting: these three are one, and they give life to each other.

Fasting is the soul of prayer; mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them: they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or not all together, you have nothing. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others.
–From a sermon by St. Peter Chrysologus, bishop

“Gird yourselves and weep, O priests. Wail, O ministers of the altar!” Joel, one of the Old Testament prophets, does not hold back when addressing the priests and ministers of the altar. They must proclaim a fast and get back to the roots of their faith. It is timely advice for us today.

Time and time again the evangelists speak about fasting. Jesus recommended fasting to make progress in the spiritual life. What Jesus has said about fasting can be summed up in this way: Fasting is as necessary as prayer (cf. Matthew 6:16)

When Jesus explained to his disciples why they were unable to deliver a man from demonic possession, he ascribed a special power to fasting. On that occasion he stated that certain demons cannot be expelled except by prayer . . . and by fasting.

According to Luke, Jesus did not eat for the 40 days he was in the desert. In other words, Jesus fasted before proclaiming the Gospel. Luke 4:2 says: “During this time he ate nothing, and at the end of it he was hungry.”

So why do we fast? From a theological point of view, fasting would no longer be necessary after the coming of Christ, for wedding guests do not have any reason to fast as long as the bridegroom is with them (Matthew 9:15). But since Jesus is still to return in his glory, fasting remains a necessary sign of our expectation. It gives us a focus on the Lord who is still to come.

By prayer we attach ourselves to God, and by fasting we detach our heart from good things that tie us to the affairs of this world. Fasting will lead us to a new freedom of heart and mind. For example, not having to cook will free up time that can be spent other ways.

Fasting is not an end in itself, but it moves us toward greater conversion. The physical emptiness brought on by fasting helps us to realize our spiritual emptiness and need.

In fasting we come out of our impurities and become pure. Fasting also prepares us for Eucharist. By being too attached to the food on our plates, we run the risk of losing sight of the Bread of Life. In order to become aware of the tiny particle of bread in our body, we must be willing to suffer physical hunger. Otherwise we risk contempt for the crumbs.

Perhaps the poor, who know the importance and the value of daily bread, have best realized the value of the Bread from Heaven. Many times the heart of the rich has not been open to that “little” gift, which conceals a gift of infinite value.

In conclusion, rich and poor are called to fast. The poor must fast in order that they do not become embittered, for fasting will help them to free their hearts and maintain their dignity. The rich should fast so that they will not withdraw themselves and help them to connect to a world where the most people go to bed hungry.

Fasting can only work in unison with prayer and mercy: the three are one and the one is three.

Father Kevin MacDonald, C.Ss.R.