My heart and soul needed a good spring cleaning, and Lent arrived just in time.
Lent is fasting season. Most people know what fasting is, but many people don't know what religious fasting is for. What good does fasting do the soul?
Fasting is form of asceticism. That means intentionally depriving yourself of some comfort or sensual pleasure. Asceticism does not require pain or self-flagellation. Self-flagellation tends to lead to pride and should be avoided. Asceticism is simply self-denial. And we could all use some of that because we are all overly attached to the stuff of this world.
According to Saint John Vianney, the Christian who cannot deny himself a sensual pleasure is a less than a Christian:
There is no doubt about it: a person who loves pleasure, who seeks comfort, who flies from anything that might spell suffering, who is over-anxious, who complains, who blames, and who becomes impatient at the least little thing which does not go his way — a person like that is a Christian only in name; he is only a dishonor to his religion, for Jesus Christ has said so: ‘Anyone who wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross every day of his life, and follow Me.’
If you're like me, you recognized yourself in at least one or two of the saint's list of symptoms.
Please, read that paragraph from St. John again.
St. John Vianney is the patron saint of parish priests. But when was the last time you heard a parish priest speak such plain truth from pulpit? When have you heard your pastor so sternly demand fasting?
When you look around at the headlines about California tearing open the veil of confession and New York legalizing infanticide for convenience and Virginia's governor endorsing the murder of babies by doctors and mothers and Theodore McCarrick's sex crimes being hidden by bishops and Cardinal Cupich wanting to consolidate more power in the hands of the men who assisted in that McCarrick's crimes . . . when you stop and look at the world today, you must begin to see why we fast.
We fast because we have too much of the stuff of this world yet we are unsatisfied with what we have. Yet, we have so stuffed our souls with the pleasures of life our souls lack space for the love of God.
When we fast, we clear a bit of shelf space for the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. If we're smart, we ask the Blessed Mother to help us clean. She will. The Mother of God, if asked, will clean our souls the way only a good, first-century Jewish mother can. She will leave plenty of room in your soul for her Son while telling you to “do whatever He says.”
And if you simply lack the shelf space in your soul? No problem. Jesus’ foster father is a carpenter. Ask St. Joseph to build you some. He will. Being a man of few words, just say, “Saint Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for me.”
Fasting removes some of the bad of this world to make room for the love of God. Fasting and prayer, said the Lord, are the only ways to drive out certain demons. Like the demons who champion America's favorite pastimes: gluttony, sloth, and lust.
We fast because we have too much on our plates already. Fasting means we can give some away to those with too little. You can't eat your cake and feed it to the poor, too, you know.
Lent has just begun. It's a good time to give something up, to open some shelf space for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. They'll help you clean your soul.
My writing has been light because I am letting JMJ clean my soul via something called Exodus 90. If you're a man looking for a way to grow in faith through detachment from wordly pleasures, I urge you to consider Exodus 90. You can start anytime.