Fasting is an essential part of the spiritual life, practiced during certain liturgical seasons and for some Catholics, throughout the entire year. It serves as a way to grow in holiness by exercising self-control. Fasting can also be medically necessary for certain health conditions or an element of some weight loss plans recommended by health professionals. If your goal with fasting is to become healthier physically, can we still reap the same spiritual benefits?
“I am doing some fasting but I’m doing fasting to lose some weight. Can I offer that up to help anybody else … if I’m fasting to lose weight?” asked Ray from Minneapolis, MN.
“Sure, why not? I mean, you’re miserable,” joked Fr. Richard Simon, host of Father Simon SaysTM on Relevant Radio®.
“Of course, we all know that fasting is because God is so mean and if we really are miserable he might feel sorry for us and give us what we want—that’s not the purpose of fasting! Fasting is an exercise in freedom. In other words, I learned this concept from an exorcist: that one of the big jobs of the exorcist is to help the sufferer get free by exercising his own free will. The devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour, and C.S. Lewis comments on that, saying, the stronger will devour the weaker. So, what we need to do is toughen up our will,” explained Fr. Simon. “‘I can eat that piece of cake but I am not going to.’ It’s an exercise of will and we strengthen our free will and to try to get your physical body in shape is certainly a godly thing. So I would say, sure, offer it up. Why not?”
Ray wondered who he should offer it up for. “So when I offer it up, do I say, ‘Jesus, take my sacrifice of fasting and help… anybody?”
Father Simon recommended that he be more specific with his intentions. “How about this? What I would say is when you have a hunger pang, say, ‘Lord, I’m offering this hunger pang up for my neighbor Fred, who’s lost his mind.’ Or, whatever—pick your intention.”