Taking a walk one day, in front of me I saw a huge black bird. As I drew closer, I expected the bird to take flight! He did not! Thinking that possibly I had a latent, hidden "Franciscan charism"--- the ability to captivate birds-- to my chagrin I recognized that the bird simply was "land-bound" due to a broken wing! It dawned on me that one of the principle reasons why so many followers of Christ, never reach the stunning heights of holiness to which they are called is because they are using one wing, and the other is paralyzed or broken!
The two wings to soar into the height of the spiritual atmosphere that God is calling us to-- the heights of holiness-- is that many of us pray, but we recoil from any form of penance. In other words, to truly fly high and reach the heights of sanctity, we must unite the two "P"'s both PRAYER AND PENANCE!
Fascinating and captivating is the message of Our Lady of Fatima. The message can be boiled down to two basic ideas: PRAYER AND PENANCE! Mary insisted that we pray and pray and pray and especially the Most Holy Rosary, but also added to prayer must be sacrifice for the conversion of poor sinners, as Our Lady said, many souls are lost because there is nobody to offer prayers and sacrifices for them!
FASTING obviously is a clear form of penance that Jesus practiced--- 40 days in the desert, He taught by saying that some devils are cast out only through prayer and fasting and the Church continues to teach, strongly insisting upon it especially in Lent. Now, January 22, the American Bishops call for a day of fasting to repair for the Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade, legalizing abortion--- the killing of innocent babies. Close to 53 million dead since Following, instead of listing ways to fast, we will present motivations for fasting. Unless we are convinced through motivational principles we will never undertake any worthy enterprise!
1. IMITATION OF CHRIST. If Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, and He is The Way, the Truth, and the Life, then we should put forth an effort to imitate Him at least to a small degree.
2. SAINTS. A student of the lives of the saints quickly observes the willingness of the saints to make huge, costly and frequent sacrifices, especially for the conversion and salvation of sinners. The saints love what God loves--- the salvation of souls. If Jesus sacrificed Himself by shedding His precious Blood we should be ready and willing to give until it hurts!
3. CONVERSION OF SINNERS. These were the words and message of Our Lady of Fatima: many souls are lost because nobody is ready and willing to sacrifice for them. St Therese Lisieux made small but costly sacrifices for the conversion of a hardened sinner, named Pranzini; in the end he was converted but through the sacrifices of St Therese, the Little Flower.
4. DEMONIC DOMINION. Jesus states very clearly in the Gospel that some devils can only be cast our by prayer and fasting. Exorcists must fast before performing the exorcisms. Jesus conquered the devil in the desert by using three (3) weapons: prayer, fasting, and the power of the Word of God!
5. REPAIR FOR PAST SINS. Personal sin, family sin, national sin, social sin--- all of these demand in justice some form and concrete manner of penance. Fasting/ and other forms of penance can repair the damage as well as placate and appease thee just anger of God.
6. DOMINATE THE FLESH. Due to Original Sin, we all carry a dual nature within us: the Adamic nature or fallen nature or what is called the "Flesh". Also we have the spiritual, renewed, sanctified nature. However, both are at war. Which of the two will win? If we apply ourselves to serious, assiduous prayer and penance then the spirit will conquer the flesh and peace will ensue. If not, the flesh will win out and slavery.
7. SOLIDARITY WITH THE POOR. Throughout the world, many this very day will die due to hunger-- they will starve to death. At times, to experience an empty stomach and a deprivation of what is necessary, can enhance our love and understanding for the huge mass of humanity that on a daily basis strive to put enough food on the table to barely subsist! What many Americans will through in the garbage, many --- if they had the chance-- would retrieve the "thrown away food", bless it and thank God for such a nourishing meal! Count your blessings!
8. BEG FOR A FAVOR! St. Ignatius of Loyola motivates us in still another way. If we are really in need of a special grace adding penance to prayer can win over the heart of God and draw down an abundant bestowal of gifts! God recoils from the stingy but is open-handed towards the generous!
9. PREVENT NATURAL DISASTER. Queen Esther fasted, and by means of this, she was able to save the Jewish people. After escaping the belly of the big-fish, Jonah proclaimed a fast in Nineveh, which was strictly carried out from man to woman from child to beast of burden. All fasted in sackcloth and ashes. God looked down on this pagan nation and held back from a terrible chastisement. Nations should turn to God in prayer and fasting especially in reparation for the killing of millions of innocent babies through abortion! "Through the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the while world! (Chaplet of Divine Mercy).
10. BODY AS TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Keenly aware of the great dignity of our body as temple of the Holy Spirit, Tabernacle of the Blessed Sacrament after Holy Communion, and destined to be glorified in heaven, bodily discipline serves as a means to glorify God in the body.
May Our Lady who insisted on penance and sacrifice in Fatima, may Our Lady who spent nine days and nine nights with the Apostles in the Upper Roompraying and fasting, awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit, May our Lady whose Immaculate Heart is surrounded by thorns--- the sins of humanity-- obtain for us a generous spirit of sacrifice. True lovers are ready and willing to suffer for the sake of the Beloved!