When the flesh is satisfied it is hard to pray … to devote oneself to a life of service which calls for much self-renunciation.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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“He must increase; I must decrease.”  These are words of John the Baptist in speaking about Jesus, in the Gospel of John.

Increasing by decreasing.  Coming and staying by going away.  Living by dying. This is the logic of fasting.

Fasting conquers the mundane.  It starves the flesh to feed the soul.

I remember the presence of fasting as my live presented itself to me.  When I was young we spread food among a household of adults and we did so on a lean salary.  We were all lean and happy.  Multiplication of the loaves so very often. We were all family and gathering around the table was joyful.  Fasting and love.

I remember when my mother and I lived in public housing – my grandparents dead and my mother’s brothers dispersed to find work and life – when work was hard to find.  There and then my mother would feed me and sit with me, her meal: a cup of black coffee and a cigarette … and she’d say: “I am not hungry, you eat.”  Fasting and love.

I remember my wife Sylvia in her sickness unable to eat and struggling so mightily to consume a small sliver of a sandwich while I encouraged her, and struggled to understand.  Fasting and love.

Love is multiplied in the presence of fasting.  In a fast, food cannot console.  In a fast, we are emptied so we might be filled in the Spirit.  In a fast, food tastes better, small morsels are savored and we eat more slowly.  In a fast, silence is present and distraction diminished. In a fast, we are lean in many ways.  In a fast, we are closer to reality, to peace within, more focused, lifted above the worry and the habits of the world – liberated from its ways, rejoined to what is divine and forever.  In a fast, we are transported, transformed, renewed.

I remember the presence of the fast in the most love-filled times of my life – an intact extended family, life with my mother, life with Sylvia.

To have too much is to have little or nothing.  To those who fast obesity is never likely.  A fast feeds the soul with love, with “food that one cannot see.”

Yes, there is a connection between fasting and love, between emptiness and fullness. Less is more to those in the Spirit, the whole person – one not diminished by the culture, fragmented by the ways and messages of the mass of starved souls and the engines of perpetual “want” that they govern.

In plenty love grows cold, in fasting it ignites.

Be ever cautious of those who stimulate the appetites for everything.  In them is bondage and deceit.  In fasting: liberation, contentment, joy and wisdom, the Spirit and God.

It is Love that you hunger for.  God is your sustenance.

Shalom.

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