Today’s Scripture readings deal with repentance and conversion. A “tool” in this aspect of spiritual warfare is fasting. One curious figure and “Desert Father” is Abba John the Dwarf. In speaking about fasting he give the following reflection:
“If a king wanted to take possession of his enemy’s city, he would begin by cutting off the water and the food and so his enemies, dying of hunger, would submit to him. It is the same with the passions of the flesh: if a man goes about fasting and hungry the enemies of his soul grow weak.”(From Selections From the Sayings of the Desert Fathers (Cistercian Publications))
Over the centuries, there have been (too many) numerous examples of people who took such ascetic practices to extremes. The KEY is not the practice but the desire to allow this practice to bring us closer to Christ and perhaps in a small way away from the “stuff” of the world.
I recently heard of one woman who, in prayer, asked God what she should “give up for Lent.” The request that she received seemed too easy. She asked three times and received the same answer. The insight was that it’s about the HEART; it about our DESIRE to develop a closer relationship with Christ that counts, not the practice.