What's the Point of Fasting During Lent?

Added 15 March 2018 by Fr. Mike Schmitz

We fast during Lent for many reasons. Whether those reasons are good or not is hard to tell sometimes, though. Sometimes we fast and do penance for personal reasons (I want to lose weight), or for practical reasons (I can save my family money or feed poor children), but too often our fasting is not actually about God. In this video, Father Mike Schmitz reminds us that God cares about us so much he is willing to notice our sacrifices—no matter how meager they may seem—and he wants us to use those sacrifices to draw closer to him.

"Why do we do the three practices of Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving? Particulary the fasting, why? It is ultimately not because we're trying to start a good habit, trying to kill a bad habit although that's a good thing. I would say the primary reason why we do penance, fasting, that kind of thing during Lent or anytime is for repentance and to give God access. So, repentance we all realize you know that there's things in our lives that we were sinners and so we repent by giving stuff up. If that's gonna be a bad habit or if that's gonna be the bad sin great yes, that's that. But we are repentant, but we turn away from the evil that we do where we choose and we turn towards the Lord that's repentance so we fast, we do the penance for that sense of like repentance , turning back to the Lord we also do it to give the Father access to our hearts.
Why do I choose the thing I choose to do for Lent?
It could be because I want to feel better about myself because I want to live a healthier life, but ultimately what it comes down to is: I'm choosing this because I believe that it will give the Father access to me heart. There is also other things I made a video about it like we do it to unite our sufferings to the sufferings of Jesus, it is very important, but it is not about repentance turning away from sin and turning towards God if it is not about giving the Father access to our hearts then ultimately what it is about, it is about ourselves. And our penance it gets to be sowing, gets to be about so much than just ourselves, it gets to be about so much more than just I started a good habit or I stopped a bad habit. I've lost a few pounds or you know I got extra sleep or whatever the thing is. It gets to be about Him. You know, thinking about this in particulary when it comes to fasting as it relates to repentance when I was reading the Booh of Jonah, here is Jonah who goes through Nineveh after his whole story with a great fish and everything he goes through Nineveh and he says forty days more and Nineveh will be destroyed and the word gets to the king of Nineveh and the ruler of Nineveh thence proclaims a fast he commands that everybody from the oldest to the youngest from the wealthiest to the poorest, even the animals that they would be dressed in sackcloth and ashes and not eat or drink anything. And it was just really remarkable, because I just think about this like we read the story we know the end we know that the Lord did not carry out the justice he was going to inflict upon Nineveh, but the people of Nineveh didn't know that like they didn't know when they started fasting when they started doing the penance when they dressed in sackcloth and ashes and didn't eat or drink they didn't know that the Lord God would:
A. Notice
B. Care
C. Respond
But we know like this is the declaration of faith that happens every single time you and I do an act of penance . We believe that God who is out Father, who loves us notices. The most amazing thing to be a Catholic Christian is to realize that you matter to God. That you don't have to do anything huge for Him to notice impact your penance probably is something really , really small. I mean it is probably not like the amazing fast of some of the great saints, it is probably something very, very insignificant in the big picture of things but you believe something about God, you believe that He cares about you so He notices and then as I said after He notices He cares and He responds . It is not like we moved to God to respond because God, He is always the initiator we are always the responders , He is always the one who moves and then we respond to His movement , but there is something powerful about: Okay Lord, I have changed this by your request and by your grace I've moved by this penance , by this act of giving up something by this act of fasting I've moved, you've noticed it, you care and now you respond. There is something, there's a massive act of faith and that act of faith is that you have a Father and you matter to Him..."


Fr. Mike Schmitz

Fr. Mike Schmitz

Duluth, MN

Chaplain for Newman Catholic Campus Ministries at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

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