Saturday, October 11, 2008

On Food and Fasting

I've begun to realize recently how integral food really is to our lives. Duh, you think. Ok ok, but besides the whole we-need-nutrition-to-survive bit, food really is an essential part of things. When it's time to celebrate, what do we do? We eat. When we want to feel better (be it because of a death, a breakup, or just hormones), what do we do? We eat. When we're struggling to stay awake during a difficult day at work, what do we do? We eat (and sometimes drink a hot beverage). When welcoming someone new to our home, to our organization, to our church, what do we do? We feed them. When we want to fast, or give something up (e.g., for Lent), where are our minds first drawn? To thoughts of eating less. I think you get the point.

None of this is bad. Eating is an essential part of both our life and our culture. But we can't let it become the focal point of our lives (that is, after all, where Gluttony gets its steam, eh?).

Has anyone else had the feeling lately that their "fasting" is more like dieting - or even budgeting? For instance: I can't skip a meal because my body would shut down halfway through the work day, but I'll refrain from eating that midafternoon bag of M&M's from the vending machine, and I'll offer that up for so-and-so... and besides, that's so many fewer calories migrating to my gut, and an extra couple bucks saved to boot! Seriously? Do I really allow myself to be duped so easily by my own clumsy sophistry?

I thought about this briefly this past Lent (well, the days before Lent, to be precise). I wanted to give up something really hard, something that was unmistakably me sacrificing something good for sake of a greater Good (and we're not talking about sacrificing chocolate for a trimmer figure here). It took me nearly a week of constant brainstorming and prayer, but I finally found it: for an extrovert like myself, restricting my social interaction (by specific rules I'd previously decided upon) was one of the most difficult - and eventually most rewarding - things I've ever done.

After all this time, it's like I'm back where I started in February - inadvertently focused on food so much so that I have to work hard to remove the horse blinders and see all the other, more beneficial options that are out there.

I look forward to exploring more creative penances. Any suggestions?


  1. I had a priest send me a homily a few days ago. Here's a part from close to the end of it:

    An idol is anything that takes God’s place as Number One. Paul in various places lists some candidates for idolatry, such as [cf. DBT, Idols] money, wine (and we could add other drugs), the desire to dominate one’s neighbor, political power, pleasure, lust, envy, hate, sin, even purely superficial observance of otherwise good religious practices. In our own day, rights without responsibilities can become an idol. Work, entertainment, sports, things which are good, can also become idols if they crowd out God. Here’s a quick spot check for idolatry. Ask yourself, ‘how much time do I devote to worship, reading the bible, prayer, personal study, and with what attitude do I do these things?’ Then ask yourself – how much time do I give to the number one pipeline for images – television and the internet, and how eagerly do I go to them compared with my eagerness for Sunday Mass? If you’re looking for a challenge, here’s one – unplug your TV for a week. That includes the Playstation, Xbox, and Wii. The crazier this sounds, the more you need to do it. Maybe this isn’t the best timing, before a Penn State game and huge election, but tuck the idea away for November 5th.

  2. Do I know you? Your comment isn't without merit, but it doesn't seem particularly relevant...

  3. Ay! Sorry!!!

    Yes you know me. I'll send you a facebook message or something.

    Anyways, my point was to throw in an idea for fasting on something other than food. That's really all I was getting at. Nothing much.


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