Fasting for Christmas

Fasting, a journey into Christmas
I offer thanks to God for giving me this unique opportunity to share with you prayers on this occasion of the Nativity fast.

Fasting has a special personal appeal to the faithful as a distinct and unique significance for all our Churches. Fasting invites us to a spiritual journey in search of our identity, accompanied with an eager commitment and vision, to see that this identity preserve its purity, authenticity and dynamism.

In the Gospel of Saint Mathew (4:1-11) the evangelist speaks about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And He fasted forty days and forty nights and afterwards He was hungry."  And then when He was tempted by the devil, He answered: "It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."

Led by the spirit 
The leading to the wilderness was part of God "economia", the divine plan for His ministry on earth.

Temptation is an integral part of our human life when we understand life in the context of the relationship between God and His creation. No human being who understands life in term of Christian faith and calling, does not feel that temptation is an existential part of the Christian condition. In our human condition, we are caught up between God's calling and weakness of the flesh.

Let us contemplate the lives of some of our great figures that have gone through the experience of temptation, of inner struggle. Even Jesus was not tempted once, it was constant battle. Therefore, fasting, is a permanent presence in our life, being a highlight in the continuous process of introspective self-examination, self-assessment, and self-purification.

Temptation
There are two types of understanding of temptation.

1   Ordinarily speaking, it has a negative sense, a person being led to bad things, being seduced to do something against the moral good.

2   In a deeper sense, it can be a positive act.

In the letter of Saint James (1:12) we read: "Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him".

"Jesus was led up to the wilderness to be tempted......"

This was not temptation in the first sense, of seducing Him to a bad end. It was temptation in the second sense, of a positive action.

We encounter temptation during all our life. Jesus knew that as a result of our free will we can chose the "large gate" instead of the "narrow gate". We are easily led to evil. That is why He taught us to pray: "And lead us not into temptation".

Lent season invites us to turn "temptation" into a test to convert ourselves through self-understanding, purification, loyalty to Him. To turn temptation into readiness for sharing love and understanding toward others. Self-centred observance of Lent cannot be the truly Christian way. It has to give expression to the communal, social dimension of our Christian being and predicament.

There are three basic sources of temptation:

1  Food

2  Power

3  Self-Glory

Food
The bread in the story symbolizes the material world. When a person is hungry, bread is very essential. But it is not everything. You can have bread and not have the word of God, the spiritual food. Today, humankind is looking only for bread. It is missing the spiritual food.

Love for Power
The love for power is a very tempting factor in human life. People endeavour to feel powerful. They prefer to dominate others instead of serving them. Many pretend that they are powerful even when they are not. Power often brings prestige, respect and command.

We have forgotten that it is God who is powerful. He is the creator of our mind, the source of our scientific discoveries. His power is destined for good. We are called to use power for the spread of good instead of evil.

This time of fasting, therefore, is a period when we are called to see how strong we are in our commitment to our faith. In what direction we use our power, our wealth, our discoveries. After all, are we really powerful on our own?

Self-glory
As human beings we are easily drawn into the temptation of seeing ourselves occupy well-recognized, prestigious positions of authority.

Did not Adam desire to be like God? Jesus’ answers to the tempter was clear: "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve".

This time of fasting, then, is a time when the worship of God occupies the very centre of our life. Such worship is translated into service to the least of Jesus' loved ones.

Abstaining from food is only one aspect, praying is another aspect.

This journey to the Kingdom of God passes through our duty of service to others. We cannot be fully human unless and until we share our humanity with our co-humans. The words of Saint Paul to the Romans (5:4-5) ring in our ears. "We rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurances, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been given to us".

Every believer goes through trial and test. We Christians have been in the wilderness during the forty days of the Fast, tempted by the Devil. We fast and pray. We do this with and for others.

We are expecting and hoping that we will be able to return from the wilderness by saying to our devil, " be gone Satan".

Then we can enjoy standing in the radiance of God's new-born light. The light of the Nativity of Christ, of our Saviour and our Redeemer.

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