Friday, April 28, 2017

fasting as a reminder


St John Cassian talks more about fasting today in A Year with the Church Fathers.

He demonstrates wisdom in explaining that we are not all alike. It would be easy for a leader to fall into the mistake of assuming that everyone can practice a certain spiritual discipline. But people are in different places spiritually and physically. Some can fast for several days without ill effects. For others, just going without food for several hours is a hardship.

This is true in other areas of our lives, too. Some can pray for hours at a time and enjoy every minute. For others, praying for five minutes at a time is a challenge. We need to be patient with each other in this regard.

But St John Cassian gives us more wisdom on the subject, when we tells us that fasting is a good reminder regarding gluttony. Because even though we're only called to fast on certain days, we are called to avoid the deadly sin of gluttony every day. And once again, this is not a "one size fits all" situation. What would be gluttonous for one person might not be for someone else. The average meal of a large American man would probably be considered gluttony if practiced by averaged sized people in other parts of the world.

So what should we do? Just try to get by on a few bites of rice every day? Not unless that's what you're specifically called to. God has given us a cornucopia of delicious kinds of food of all varieties, and He wants us to enjoy them. It becomes gluttony when we develop an over attachment to food. When we eat "too expensively, too eagerly, too soon, too much, or too daintily," according to another wise Catholic teacher. Daintily? That means being too picky. "You cooked this chicken way too long... it's drier than the sahara" would be a gluttonous comment, besides being an uncharitable one.

So fasting teaches us to humbly and joyfully enjoy the food that God has provided in a healthy and balanced way. It helps to take away the temptation to eat too fast, too much, and to spend too much money on food. Might we not eat a slightly less expensive meal and give the difference to the poor? Just a thought.

God, thanks for giving us the discipline of fasting to remind us to avoid gluttony.