Discipline through Fasting – Changing the Inner Mirror into Glass

A good TV program by the name of Faith 2.0 features two priests who discuss a range of questions people have about Christian Faith. As questions come in, they draw from deep research, study, training, and meditation into matters of Faith to provide open, detailed and candid answers on a range of issues.

I forgot what question they were answering when they were talking about concupiscence. If I remember correctly, they were referring to:

  • Darkening of the intellect
  • Weakened mental state
  • Lower control over emotions

You find yourself not making the right decisions regarding situations and those bad decisions may put you on the road to sin. I found the brief discussion on concupiscence very interesting. The concept of concupiscence actually shows up in ancient descriptions about humanity becoming dislocated (mind, spirit, or complete self) from the divine order due to cosmic error or bad choices across the span of higher intelligent beings.

Part of their discussion on faith highlighted faith practices. The idea is that we can strengthen mind and spirit through faith practices. A set of practices among many include:

  • Fasting
  • Prayer
  • Charity

Fasting is particularly interesting. Sacrifice in this way is not common to human experience. What we understand through fasting grows our knowledge of faith. Yet, it can be a dangerous path to tread if not approached with the right mind and expectation.

The last chapter of the Gospel of John has Jesus asking Peter if Peter loves him (verses 15-17). The question is asked 3 times. The Gospel of John in chapter 21:15-25 ends with 3 points:

  • Love others (verses 15-17)
  • Follow Jesus (verse 19)
  • Hold to God despite your understanding of God’s ways (verses 20-25)

What I currently understand is that perfect love abolishes sin; following Jesus completely creates a better psychological and mental life; keeping the faith makes you more likely to live in the Spirit. Even with this understanding however, there are problems. The problem is none of us have perfect love, none of us follows Jesus completely, and none of us live without some doubts.

The problems are the kind many try to hide. It can be embarrassing and disappointing to falter in the expression of love, adherence to Jesus’ example, and in quietly questioning some tenet of faith. Few people will admit this as it can assault our sense of self and ultimately give us the sense that we have failed. Fortunately, ministers, priests, and faith leaders remind us that as we draw breath our failures are not permanent and God’s path remains open when we but try again.

How do we strengthen ourselves to diminish our incidence of error? Fasting for Christians may be inspired from a few concepts. One concept is the 40 days of fasting Jesus underwent in preparation for his ministry. Each year, millions of Christians follow this path to model their fast to coincide with the duration of Jesus’ fast. During this process, you may not abstain to the extent that Jesus did, but you cut back on what you eat, sacrifice time, resources, money, and preferences to learn and draw closer to God through realizing more of the virtues of the Spirit.

When fasting in this way be careful of a few things. First and foremost, do not express your faith so that expression can be seen and approved by others. That is flawed. Instead, the mindset is to reach towards God. Not literally, but in the Spirit. Can you learn love, unconditional charity, forgiveness, and patience as a means to help others?

The goal of fasting is not to re-enact the exact setting (wilderness) and conditions (nearly zero food) and challenges (direct confrontation with evil) Jesus faced. The modern world is not a wilderness (cars, frequent movements, daily obligations) and has different conditions (TV, Internet, fast-food, indoor settings) and challenges (embedded hedonistic essence). The goal of the modern fast then is to decrease self to better treat the diseases of pride and vice that often become barriers to alignment with God. Love increases to the extent pride diminishes.

The fasting discipline improve our ability to avoid impugning others directly/indirectly which improves to the extent vice is overcome. Henri-Benard Lévi describes Moses in his book, The Genius of Judaism, that Moses encountered God more clearly as he had less of a mental filter regarding God. Fasting, however imperfect, is a solid measure to improve clarity to follow God through the example of Jesus.

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