What is fasting, a practice found in every culture on the planet, all about? At times it was probably understood, to use Austin Farrer’s phrase, as a sort of ‘hunger strike’, designed to influence God and his disposition towards us (Farrer, The Crown of the Year, Dacre Press (1952), p. 22). But surely, God doesn’t need to be persuaded to bless us. God is more ready to bless us thatn we are to ask, and, in fact, already blesses us far more than we realise or acknowledge. God’s power and love sustain every atom in the universe. Our existence and everything which contributes to, embellishes, and beautifies it comes from God’s hand. We fool ourselves if we thing that there is anything we have, or anything that we are which is not God’s gracious gift to us.
Perhaps the acknowledgement of this is the basic reason for fasting: it refocusses us on the source of our life. By eating more simply, by taking the food we eat less for granted, our eyes are opened to God’s great sustaining love for us. And as our eyes are opened, our desires are reoriented, away from the gift to the giver. Away from the blessing to the blessed one.
This Lent, may we all take time to live a simpler life, to persevere even when we fail. And may we come to trust more fully in the love in which we live, and move and have our being (Acts 17.28)