Please listen to Father Broom's talk on Fasting & Penance
To please God not only should we “do”
what is right but also we should have the right intention; in spirituality this
is called “purity of intention” or “rectitude of intention.
St. Paul exhorts us, “Whether you eat or
drink do everything for the honor and glory of God.” The Ignatian motto is four letters:
A.M.D.G.--- meaning, that we should do everything for the greatest honor and
glory of God.
St. Faustina Kowalska constantly was
striving to please Jesus, not the people that surrounded her. Some thought she
was bizarre in her actions and criticized her.
Either we are “People-pleasers” or we are “God-pleasers”. Choose! Then act accordingly!
With respect to fasting, prayer and
almsgiving, Jesus repeats the admonition that these actions should not be done
be seen by men, applauded and praised by others or done simply for one’s own
self-aggrandizement. Rather, they should be done in secret, only to please God,
and He who sees in secret will give a just recompense! (Mt. 6)
This being said let us briefly give a
series of reasons why we should take seriously our Ascetical life of sacrifice,
denial and self-discipline so that these actions will be pleasing to God our
IMITATION OF CHRIST.
The whole life of the Christian should be an ardent pursuit of striving
with all of the energy of our will to imitate Christ to the point that we can
say with St. Paul, “No longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” Obviously most of us cannot fast forty days
and nights in the desert like Jesus, but we can renounce something with
REPARATION OF OUR OWN SINS. In justice due to our many sins we are obliged to repair for the damage that
has been done by our sins. Pope John
Paul II speaks about the five negative effects of our sins: theological,
personal, social, ecclesial and cosmic.
St. Paul says that what we sow is what we will reap on the Day of
Judgment. A Midas Muffler commercial had an add, “Pay now
or pay later!” Better to pay now in this
life with our sacrifice then in Purgatory or worse after our life is ended!
REPARATION FOR SINS OF OUR FAMILY. We are all keenly aware of family members who
have walked away from the Church, from God and the pathway to heaven. Our loved
ones are suffering, even though they may not admit it; worse yet, their
salvation is in jeopardy. By fasting and penance we can beg the Lord for their
conversion, sanctification and eternal salvation of their immortal souls, St.
Thomas Aquinas says that one soul is worth more than the whole created
universe. It was saved by the Precious Blood of the Lamb of God who takes away
the sins of the world!
CONVERSION OF SINNERS. In both of the approved Marian
apparitions---Lourdes, France and Fatima, Portugal, Our Lady insisted on prayer
but she also insisted on the importance of sacrifices for the salvation of
sinners. At Fatima, Our Lady said that many souls are lost because there is
nobody to offer sacrifices for them.
The July 13, 1917 vision of hell motivates the children to offer constant
and heroic sacrifices for the conversion of sinners.
SOLIDARITY WITH THE POOR. Throughout the world many
people will go to bed tonight without a mouthful; children will actually die of
hunger. The plight of so many people and
nations dying of hungers is a scandal especially to nations that have a
superfluity of goods. Experiencing an
empty-growling stomach at times can help us to identify with our millions of
brothers and sisters who experience this on a daily basis! This is called “solidarity with the poor!”
THE SPIRIT CONQUERING THE FLESH. There is a war within every one of us as a
result of Original sin called concupiscence (St Thomas); Paul calls it the
battle between the flesh and the spirit.
Either the flesh will conquer the spirit and slavery to the flesh and
sin will result or the spirit will conquer the flesh and the net result will be
the liberty of the sons and daughters of God.
It takes prayer, penance and fasting to conquer the animal-donkey within
we are able to say “no” to our desires--- even when they are legitimate, then
we experience true liberty. In other
words, things do not have a hold over us. We can say “yes” and “no” to eating
at will. This is self-control and self-control produces a true interior
liberty. Jesus states very clearly that sin is a form of slavery. Alcoholics,
drug-addicts, porn-addicts, gamblers--- even though they do not want to admit
it have no freedom but their addictions are a modern form of slavery!
DEVIL. After Jesus had expelled the
devil from a boy, the Apostles questioned Our Lord why they could not expel the
demon. Jesus responded clearly: “Those types can be expelled only by prayer and
by fasting.” In formal exorcisms, the exorcist must pray for the possessed
person but also to fast. The Holy Cure
of Ars (St. John Marie Vianney) was able to expel the many devils from his
parish as well as the convert his parish through fervent prayer and intense
St. Teresa of Avila stated that sensuality or giving into the flesh and
prayer do not collaborate well together. A true,
authentic, and growing prayer will undoubtedly include with it that of penance
or fasting. In the desert Jesus prayed
but He also fasted and He conquered the devil.
The first Novena of the Church was Pentecost. In these nine days the Apostles united with
the Blessed Virgin Mary prayed and fasted. As a result there was wind, an earthquake
and fire and the transformation of the Apostles into true soldiers of Christ.
GRACES. St. Ignatius of Loyola invites
us to pray and to add to it penance especially if we need a special grace form
on high. Ignatius in the 6th Rule of discernment suggests four
practices to overcome the state of desolation: prayer, meditation, examination
of conscience, and some suitable form
of penance…. (Rule 6 for the discernment of Spirits, St Ignatius of
In summary, the practice of penance and
fasting is alien to the modern sensual, materialistic, hedonistic, consumerist
modern American society. It seems to be a foreign language. However many pages
of the Bible encourage this practice as well as the great heroes of God the
saints. Therefore, with consultation with your confessor or Spiritual Director
why not generously undertake some form of penance and fasting to imitate
Christ, repair for sin, beg for the conversion of sinners and experience the
liberty of the sons and daughters of God!