Fasting, as a spiritual practice, has long been with the Church. But depriving ourselves of food is no gift to God unless it yields some good. Spiritually, fasting can “clear the deck,” make space for God in our normally fast-paced, hunger-driven lives. Many of the holy ones in our rich tradition fasted regularly and found the practice nurtured gratitude and contemplation.
But human beings can always find a way to make something “all about me.” Jesus warned us not to advertise our fasts by looking grim and hungry. He challenged us to fast with joy. Even more important is the idea that a fast should be a blessing for the world, for God’s people. The prophet Isaiah, Jesus’ go-to prophet, gave us a profound insight into God’s heart. In a passage, that we usually proclaim at the very beginning of Lent, we get a deeper understanding of the relationship of fasting to the work of justice.
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Yesterday, our Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Michael B. Curry, invited the Church to begin a regular fast on the 21st day of every month.
“We fast to fortify our advocacy in solidarity with families who are struggling with hunger. We fast to be in solidarity with neighbors who suffer famine, who have been displaced, and who are vulnerable to conflict and climate change. We fast with immigrants who are trying to make a better future for their families and now face the risk of deportation. We fast in solidarity with families on SNAP, who often run out of food by the last week of the month.”
Watch the full video here.
Michael believes that the Church was made for “a time such as this.” A fast of this nature places us in relationship with strangers whose lives are lacking the things we often take for granted. Learn more about the causes of, and fight against, hunger here. But know that the 21st of the month is very significant for persons who live in poverty. That’s when families receiving SNAP benefits begin to struggle with food security. We will be in solidarity with hungry families. And, with God’s help, our fasting will move us to some concrete action. We won’t know what that looks like until we open our hearts in prayer.
While this is clearly an individual practice, we will be united with Episcopalians and Lutherans all over the country. The fast will be on the 21st of every month – beginning this Sunday, May 21 – through the end of the 2018 legislative session. I hope you will consider joining the fast. I know that you will be blessed. And that blessing will find its way into the nightmare so many live.
Fast with prayer.
Fast with hope.
Fast with joy.