Commitment-Phobe: Why fast?
I need to understand the purpose of Lent to model it to my daughter
I have been feeling really challenged by Lent this year, and, in particular, fasting. What is it all about? And why do we do it as the Church? Doesn’t the Gospel of Matthew say: ‘When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father, who is in secret’? Isn’t an institutional 40 days of fasting a big and obvious show off? Is it a private thing or a public thing?
My mother was born and brought up in a strictly Catholic country. Lent was a serious business for everyone, and along with quitting eggs, sugar and meat (fish was allowed on Fridays) there was no singing, dancing, radio or games. There was abstinence from any kind of liveliness. Does this mean that if you were born in mid-March you never celebrated your birthday?
I do not know anyone who practises Lent in a severe way but I do hear talk in church circles about fasting from meat or dairy, or abstaining from food completely one day a week. I asked a few people why they do it. I’ve been told the hunger helps you focus on your dependence on God. I’ve been told people do it because Jesus did. I’ve been told it helps with powerful transformational prayer, as when Jesus tells the disciples that a particular kind of evil spirit will only come out through prayer and (in some manuscripts) fasting. My favourite answer is that fasting is a desire to show our devotion…
Commitment-Phobe is a Christian
This is an extract from an article that was published in the March 2020 edition of Reform