8th Sunday Ordinary Time
Year B

B204: Why is it necessary to fast? I recognize Jesus as Messiah and Savior, and I believe he is truly present in the Eucharist. So why do I need to fast at all (Matt 2:18-22)?

If you are married, consider the days past when you were courting your future spouse. I suspect that you were very conscious of your appearance, so that it would not interfere with your dreams of a shared future. What about your spiritual "appearance;" do you let it interfere with your love affair with God, your future with him? If you permit such interference, then it will also affect your neighbors everywhere.

Although they are certainly related, fasting doesn't have to do with "too much" as much as it has to do with "too little"! Too many times we are in "denial" of a problem called "gluttony," both at the personal level and the national patriotic level. Lent is right around the corner, when people get serious about fasting, because we all know that we are the cause of "too little."

Consider: is my relationship with God "too much" or 'too little"? That one is a no-brainer! Perhaps I need to discipline my body and my habits, including spiritual habits, so that I can tune back in to God. He is just waiting for me to do this, so that he can woo me in "the desert," that place of solitude where he can speak to me of His love for me (First Reading, Hosea 2:16-17, 21-22). Consider the poor: do they have "too much" or "too little"? Another no-brainer! Fasting helps put me in touch with the real needs of those around me, as it moves me away from my selfishness and sharpens my perceptions of the privation of my neighbor. Consider our world: do we have "too much" peace or "too little"? (Wow, another no-brainer!) Fasting helps us convert our hearts, so that we seek solutions other than war and destruction.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! To begin your Lenten season, I suggest that you open your Catechism (please buy one, if you do not have one) and reflect on these two segments: CCC #1434-39, and CCC #2041-43. Remember that the greatest leaders in the world, including Jesus, fasted before they accomplished their great deeds.

Q360: Why did the Lord have to lead the Israelites "into the desert" (Hosea 2:16-22) to regain their love?

Remember when you first fell in love with your spouse? When that awareness hit home for me, just wanting to be in her presence almost became an obsession. I sacrificed everything that got in the way of being with my heart's desire. Family, friends, hobbies, special interests - all of those things took a back seat to my one and only desire: to be with the one I loved and with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life. The longest impatient period of my life was the happy time of courtship, which I couldn't wait to see end so that there would be no more "goodbyes." Yet paradoxically, time stood still when I was with my fiancée, and I did not want to see the day end which always meant a short time of parting. Forty-four years later there is no more parting; my spouse and I are one, we are committed, and we continue to grow in love for each other. But we each know others who have "separated" from their spouses, and then discovered their mistake. What followed was "a new courtship" on their part, to try to reconnect with their initial love that got sidetracked.

Speaking metaphorically, God is like that: always wanting to be in our presence, exchanging love. God "married" his people, promising to remain faithful to them forever. But his people "strayed" and followed other interests and other gods. The Prophet Hosea's wife (Gomer) was a "symbol" of this unfaithful people; she left him and pursued other interests. But Hosea took her back, always faithful. In the same way, the one true God remains faithful, and always tries to woo his people back when they stray. His "courtship" with his Chosen People was in the desert exodus experience. Today's First Reading says that He will once again lead his people into "the desert" - a quiet place where they can be alone and grow in love again. What a forgiving and merciful God we have! What a lover!

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Scholars tell us that the story of the desert wanderings in scripture always refers to a kind of encounter between humans and God. Later, the "desert" becomes a spiritual place where you meet God, especially in a crisis situation (such as sin). Lent starts soon, and God wants you to return to his full embrace. Aim for a full conversion of heart (CCC #1430) by opening yourself again to God and his people through a good confession (CCC #1455).