15 June, Wednesday — Fasting throughout the year

2 Kgs 2:1,6-14
Mt 6:1-6,16-18

“…and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

Today’s Gospel passage makes me recall Lent, since it is commonly read on Ash Wednesday. It also led me to recall my friend’s sharing about he had managed to fast from TikTok for this year’s Lent, and how his success had helped him decide he would try to reduce the time he spent on it beyond Easter. I had also resolved to spend less time on social media this year, and though I was less successful, hearing from him renewed my impetus to continue working on this habit too.

I have to admit that I am usually relieved to get to the end of Lent, since it means I can cease fasting (or more accurately my attempts at fasting). But I also need to remind myself that I should not revert to my previous bad habits and excesses. After all, the fact that the Church selected the passage from Matthew as the gospel for today serves as a good reminder that we can consider fasting as a form of penance throughout the year; and just last year, I discovered that we are also encouraged to embark on fasting during the Advent season.  

Indeed, the ‘long-term benefits’ of fasting (some are listed here) are always relevant, in a sacred and secular sense, and can extend to other areas of our lives besides food and drink. Like the Examen prayer, I think it can help as a form of self-examination and motivation to make small changes to turn back to God; for example, my fast from social media made me rethink how I was carrying out my idle surfing and strive to spend that time either on watching/reading Catholic content or prayer (although the mystery of why I can happily sit down for a 60-min drama episode but struggle to stay focused throughout a 20-min podcast on the Bible is one I am still trying to solve…). Fasting can also serve as a form of intercession and a means to deny ourselves for the sake of others, which can also bring us closer to God.

Nonetheless, going back to today’s passage, we need to be mindful not to inadvertently veer into fasting simply to ‘fulfil the checklist’ or for our own misguided reasons such as pride. I have been guilty of this as well, in the instances I found myself fasting but remaining unchanged in my behaviour and speech, or saying the rosary more to achieve a specific number of decades than to spend time with the Lord.

Ultimately we fast to grow closer to God. We may not always succeed, but we can be sure that our Father sees and understands our efforts; after all, He knows us better than we know ourselves, and is aware of everything that we do – even what we do in secret.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jaclyn Lam)

Prayer: Lord, grant us the prudence, wisdom and humility to discern how we can strengthen our relationship with You throughout the year. Forgive us for the times we stray from You, whether we mean to or not. Show us how You are present with us in our everyday lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for your constant mercy, patience and generosity. Thank you for always understanding us, always calling us back to You and for providing us many ways to return to You.

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