February 26, 2023 — 1st Sunday of Lent
The Spirit leads Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil, and we hear this: “He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry.” Seems like a questionable battle preparation plan. When I fast, I usually feel grouchy at best, and at worst, like I might pass out from longing for a hamburger. Isn’t it better to be well-fed and fully hydrated, especially to face spiritual struggles? Why fast?
This might help. The origin of the word “fast” means to “hold firmly.” We still use it that way when we say, “I held fast to my original decision.” We human beings are a bundle of desires which vie for our attention: food, drink, comfort, safety, sex, laughter, beauty, and so on. If we can’t manage to have firm grip on them, in short order they’ll have a firm grip on us. By fasting from our lower desires, we learn to firmly grip on to what is greater. Fasting leads to us to a firmer hold on our body and mind.
Jesus fasts for us. He’s showing us that his grace can help us regain this firm hold of our lives, which makes it more difficult for the devil to tempt us. But take it one more step. Fasting also teaches us to finally hold fast to Jesus, the Word of God in flesh. “Man does not live by bread alone,” he says, “But by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” Jesus’ fasting reveals his fast hold to the Father in everything. May our fasting help us to grasp ourselves more firmly, and then to hold fast to Jesus alone.
— Father John Muir ©LPi