Saturday, February 28, 2009

Some Fasting Encouragement from Scripture

I have been practicing lectio divina in my halting, broken way, and here are two passages I had been lingering on to help me with fasting this week.

All the commandments which I command you this day you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God had led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:1-3)

Jesus cites this passage to Satan during his temptation in the wilderness. Satan taunts Jesus, saying that if he is the Son of God, then he could turn a stone into a loaf of bread. But Jesus responds that "Man does not live on bread alone" (Luke 4:3-4).

As our 40 days of Lent parallels Christ's 40 days in the wilderness (which also recalls its type in the 40 years in the wilderness of the recently freed Israelites), it helped me to think of myself in union with him, and to think of my nourishment as coming from the word (and The Word) of God.

I also found comfort in thinking about my hunger as being a way of opening my heart (or as the Jerusalem Bible translates the passage, my "inmost heart") to God. And the humbling aspect of it is important, especially for me.

The manna, which was later kept in the Ark of the Covenant, was a type of the Eucharist, and we see how ultimately our hunger is satisfied in the Eucharist, which brings us in intimate union with Jesus.

There is a passage in the Gospel of John that complements the Deuteronomy passage quite nicely:

Meanwhile the disciples besought him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." But he said to them, "I have food to eat of which you do not know." So the disciples said to one another, "Has any one brought him food?" Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work." (John 4:31-34)

When I would feel hungry, I would think about making my food doing God's will and accomplishing his work. "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:9-10). "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matthew 26: 39). Again, to do God's will rather than our own, usually takes some humbling, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

I also pray to St. Anthony of the Desert, who knew a thing or too about hunger, and about shedding the comforts and distractions and lures of this world to concentrate on God instead.

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