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Apr 13, 2023 1260 Sean Booth, UK
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Why You Should Fast?

Wanna experience a breakthrough in life? Here’s what you are looking for!

It certainly doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know, that prayer is central to the life of every Christian. The importance of the call to fasting is less spoken about, so it may be unknown or unfamiliar. Many Catholics may believe they are doing their part by abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but when we look at the Scriptures, we may be surprised to learn that we are called to more. Jesus was asked why His disciples did not fast, when the Pharisees and John the Baptist’s disciples did. Jesus responded by saying that when He was taken away from them, ‘they will fast in those days’ (Luke 5:35).

My introduction to fasting came in a powerful way around 7 years ago, as I lay on my bed reading an article online, about starving children in Madagascar. I read how a desperate mother described the harrowing situation; she and her children were in. They woke up in the mornings hungry. The children went to school hungry and so they were unable to concentrate on what they were learning.

They came home from school hungry, and went to bed hungry. The situation was that bad that they began to eat grass to trick their minds into thinking they were consuming something sustaining, to take away their thoughts of hunger. I learnt that the first few years of a child’s life are crucial. The nourishment they receive or don’t receive, can impact the rest of their lives. The part that truly broke my heart was a photograph of the backs of three young children in Madagascar, with no clothes on, clearly and visibly showing the extreme lack of nourishment. Every single bone in their body seemed to be visible. This had a profound impact on my heart.

‘What can I do?’

After reading this article, I went downstairs, in a bit of a daze with such a heavy heart and my eyes full of tears.  I took the breakfast cereal out of the cupboard, and as I went to the refrigerator to take out the milk, I noticed a fridge magnet of Saint Teresa of Calcutta. I held the milk in my hand, and as I shut the door, I stared again at the picture of Mother Teresa, and said in my heart ‘Mother Teresa, you came to help the poor in this world. What can I do to help them?’ I felt in my heart an immediate, gentle and clear answer; ‘Fast!’. I put the milk straight back in the fridge, and the cereals back in the cupboard, and felt such a joy and peace in receiving such clear direction. I then made a promise, that if I thought about food that day, if I got hungry, smelt food, or even saw it, I would offer that small self-denial for those poor children and their parents, and all starving and hungry people across the world.

It was an honour to be called into God’s divine intervention in such a simple but obviously powerful way. I did not think about food or even feel any hunger that day until later that night, when I attended Holy Mass. Moments before receiving Holy Communion, my stomach rumbled and I felt so hungry. As I knelt back down after receiving the Eucharist, I felt like I had just finished the best meal of my life. I certainly had; I had received the ‘Bread of Life’ (John 6:27-71). The Eucharist not only unites each one of us to Jesus personally, but also in turn to each other, and in a powerful way ‘commits us to the poor’ (CCC 1397). Saint Augustine describes the greatness of this mystery as a ‘sign of unity’ and ‘bond of charity’ (CCC 1398). Saint Paul helps us to understand this by further explaining, ‘Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread’ (1 Corinthians 10:17). Therefore being ‘one body in Christ’ makes us ‘individually members of one another’ (Romans 12:5).

One Direction

I began to pray each week, asking the Lord who He wanted me to fast and pray for. Before I began to fast, I would somehow come across somebody; a homeless person, a prostitute, an ex-prisoner etc. I felt truly guided. One particular week, however, I went to bed unsure of what intention the Lord wanted me to fast and pray for. As I went to sleep that night, I prayed, asking for direction. The following morning as I finished my morning prayer, I noticed I had a text message on my mobile phone. My sister had texted me the tragic news that a friend of hers had committed suicide. I had my answer. I then began to fast and pray for this girl’s soul. Also, for the people who had found her, her family, and all suicide victims, and anybody who currently may had been contemplating taking their own lives. When I came home from work that day, I prayed my daily Rosary. As I prayed the last prayer, on the very last bead, I felt clearly in my heart the words, ‘When you fast’ (Matthew 6:16-18). As I pondered these words, the emphasis was clearly on ‘When’, not ‘If’. As much as we are expected to pray as believers, the same is clearly true for fasting, ‘When you fast’. As I finished the Rosary and stood up, my phone immediately rang. A beautiful elderly lady I know from church rang me, in a desperate state and told me some of the things that were going on in her life. She told me she was thinking of committing suicide. I knelt down and we prayed together on the phone and by the grace of God she felt peace by the end of the prayer and conversation. The power of prayer and fasting! Glory to God.

Fly and Fight back

I have had the great blessing of visiting the Marian pilgrimage site of Medjugorje, a number of times in my life and have grown deeper in appreciation of this most beautiful weapon against evil. There the Blessed Virgin has continued to call Her children to penance and fasting, often requesting that they take only bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays. It was once said by a late Medjugorje priest, Father Slavko that ‘Prayer and fasting are like two wings’. We surely can’t expect to fly very well with only one wing. It’s time for believers to truly embrace the whole Gospel message and live radically for Jesus, and really fly.

The Bible clearly shows us time and again the power of prayer when accompanied with fasting (Esther 4:14-17; Jonah 3; 1 Kings 22:25-29). In a time where the battle lines are clearly drawn, and the contrast between light and darkness is unmistakably evident, it’s time to push back the enemy, recalling the words of Jesus, that some evil ‘cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting’ (Mark 9:29).

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Sean Booth

Sean Booth is a member of the Lay Missionaries of Charity and Men of St. Joseph. He is from Manchester, England, currently pursuing a degree in Divinity at the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham.

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