|Evening Mass at the back altar of Saint James Church|
Today's post is a continuation of one of my previous posts, Our Lady's "Little Stone" - Pray With The Heart, The Rosary Everyday. Fasting on "bread and water," is the third of five "little stones" Our Lady has given us from her messages in Medjugorje.
If you are new to the reference of "little stones," they refer to five spiritual weapons Our Lady has given us to fight the good fight against Satan. As God gave David little stones which he used to hurl at Goliath, we are to do likewise in our spiritual battle against our Goliath, the Evil One.
Our Lady has given us these stones because she understands what we need to not only fight the good fight, but to become victorious in our spiritual battle.
Our Lady's request is to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, on bread and water from midnight to midnight; that is, the entire day, "The best fast is on bread and water. Through fasting and prayer one can stop wars, one can suspend the natural laws of nature. Works of charity cannot replace fasting. Everyone except the sick, has to fast." (July 21, 1982) By combining fasting with prayer, we increase the power of our prayers. This is something we should keep in mind especially when praying for a special or urgent intention. By fasting we allow our entire being to participate and offer this sacrifice to God. Let us also not forget that Jesus fasted frequently and he taught the Apostles, that certain devils can be cast out in no other way except by prayer and fasting. (Mark 9:29)
The amount of bread and water you consume does not matter, so long as you make the sacrifice of this strict fast and offer it to God. Our Lady appeared to one of the six visionaries, Ivan Dragicevic on August 14, 1984 and gave him the following message, "I would like people to pray with me these days in the greatest numbers possible. Also I would like them to fast strictly on Wednesdays and Fridays, and to pray at least the rosary every day, joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries."
There are many ways to fast, but Our Lady specifically stated that fasting on bread and water is the "best fast." For those not used to fasting, it doesn't have to be something strictly adhered to at first, but eventually implemented over time.
Our Lady's invitation to fast is an appeal to our freedom to live her messages. Officially, the Church only obliges the faithful to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, so fasting according to Our Lady's request becomes our "yes" to our personal devotion to her. By giving our assent to Our Lady to fast, combined with prayer, we may come to know God's love and do his will in our lives:
"Dear children! In a special way I call you all to pray for my intentions so that, through your prayers, you may stop Satan's plan over this world, which is further from God every day, and which puts itself in the place of God and is destroying everything that is beautiful and good in the souls of each of you. Therefore, little children, arm yourselves with prayer and fasting so that you may be conscious of how much God loves you and may carry out God's will. Thank you for having responded to my call." (October 25, 2008)Fasting and prayer form that perfect combination in our fight against evil. We pray better when we fast, and our love for our Saviour and Redeemer grows. Fasting also heightens our receptivity to listen inwardly to God's gentle voice.
The Evil One hates fasting and tries to discourage us. Saint Paul used to fast before his journeys to clear the way of all devils from his path. Saint Anthanasius who was experienced in fasting is quoted as stating:
It cures diseases; it dries up all morbid discharges of the body. It repels devils and drives out unclean thoughts. It renders the spirit more lucid and purifies the heart. It sanctifies the body and transports man to God's throne. Fasting is a powerful force and leads to great spiritual triumphs.In these modern times that we live in, it seems so rare to hear of people fasting in the manner in which Our Lady asks of us. If you are new to fasting and wondering about whether or not this is something you can do, it is not difficult or strenuous at all. Fasting is done out of love for Our Lady and performed as an offering to God. Well motivated in this respect makes the days of fasting a great joy, knowing that you are pleasing both God and Our Lady.
Fasting benefits us in many ways, physically and psychologically, but it is the spiritual benefits that should concern us the most. What we should also consider is that when we fast, combined with prayer, there is an even greater opportunity to receive God's mercy upon us.
The Cure d'Ars or St. Jean Marie Vianney used to fast for days to obtain some divine favour from God and was quoted after he had fasted, "I then obtained from the good God everything I sought." Here are a few more messages from Our Lady regarding fasting that I hope will encourage you to take this "little stone" and employ this spiritual weapon, one that is both powerful and efficacious against the Evil One in all that he tries to do to interfere with your life's goal, your salvation:
- January 25, 2001: "Dear children! Today I call you to renew prayer and fasting with even greater enthusiasm until prayer becomes a joy for you. Little children, the one who prays is not afraid of the future and the one who fasts is not afraid of evil. Once again, I repeat to you: only through prayer and fasting also wars can be stopped – wars of your unbelief and fear for the future. I am with you and am teaching you little children: your peace and hope are in God. That is why draw closer to God and put Him in the first place in your life. Thank you for having responded to my call."
- April 25, 1999: "By fasting and prayer, witness that you are mine and that you live my messages."
- November 6, 1982: "Repeated prayers and fasting reduce punishments from God."
- January 28, 1987: "If you wish to obtain a grace from the Lord by fasting, then let no one know that you are fasting. If you wish to obtain the grace of God through a gift to the poor, let no one know it, except you and the Lord."
- October'1983: "The fasting which you are doing in eating fish, instead of meat, is not fasting but abstinence. The true fast consists in giving up all our sins, but one must also renounce himself and make the body participate in it.
One of the visionaries, Mirjana Soldo, stated in one of her talks to pilgrims that, "Our Lady does not ask for fasting from those who are sick, but truly sick. Our Lady says that they will realize through their own prayer what fasting they can do outside bread and water."
In these scenarios and other situations that make fasting on bread and water impossible, fasting could take on another form, such as the deprivation of television, coffee, chocolate or what ever would constitute a proper offering to God in place of the strict fast. Through prayer each individual will be able to understand what alternative fast would be appropriate and acceptable to God.
Our Lady's love for us is so great—evidenced by her messages alone—let us in our response, reciprocate that love by embracing her "little stone" of fasting.
Our Lady Queen of Peace, pray for us.