What it means to Fast on Ash Wednesday

Disclaimer: There is nothing new here; just an echo of what I have read, heard, and lived as a practicing adult Catholic since 2011.

Today is Ash Wednesday, a day of imposing ashes on our foreheads and a day of fasting.

Let’s focus on fasting.

Fasting is abstaining meals for a day, either limiting to one full meal or two smaller meal. And what is the point of fasting?

Keyword: self-restraint.

When we fast, we abstain from eating and drinking not because we are dieting or for medical purposes; it’s purpose is spiritual.

Even if I use theological terms such as turning away from “sin”, it will still boil down to self-restraint. And since I brought it up, what is “sin”?

To turn away from others and from God is to “sin”. It is a state of discord or disunity. This is why the term devil or diablo literally means the one who disperses or scatters. To be a sinner means to be someone who is isolated from God and from others; to be a sinner is also to become “full” of oneself.

Fasting is not only about eating. We also abstain from harmful or “guilty” pleasures such as speaking ill of others (yes, gossiping is pleasurable), watching a late night television series, or drinking five cups of coffee (yes, I know I’m lame in giving examples so think of your own way of fasting).

When we Catholics fast, we do it as a gesture of desiring unity with God and with others; we desire unity because we love God and we love others as well.

And like Valentine’s day, fasting is about love.

It’s ultimate end is to fulfil the desire of Jesus for us, that we may be one just as he and the Father are one (John 17:11).

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