Why do we fast? Because somewhere in the stack of hungers and desires of our life we have a hunger for God. The hunger for God is the most intrinsic – hardwired as it were. It is the deepest hunger. The question is where in the stack is it? There are quotidian hungers – the ordinary ones of everyday. There are episodic hungers. There are the ones that are baseline – safety, security, companionship, knowing why we are here. And there is the hunger for God, the deepest bedrock hunger of existence.
Lots of hunger to navigate. Lots of white noise and static. We’re need to have clear access to and awareness of our hunger for God. Just as we are aware of how the munchies drive us to peek in the refrigerator, a hot day drives us to a cool drink, even more so we are meant to be aware of our hunger for God that drives us to prayer, worship, and Eucharist.
Thomas Merton once observed that our desires for food and drink are something like little children in their persistence and tendency to dominate. Unless and until they are disciplined, they will skew the functions of the soul according to their purposes.
And fasting is a way of disciplining the hunger for food and drink, peeling away the layers, clear the static. It is a way of quieting those desires by not responding to them immediately, so that the deepest desires emerge. Fasting opens up the spiritual airwaves for you to realize how hungry you are for God.
Adapted from “Lenten Gospel Reflections” from Bishop Robert Barron of Friday 2/29/2020