Fasting is a concept that is very familiar to practicing Catholics especially during the liturgical season of Lent. Catholics are called to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday as well as all the Fridays during Lent. One of the reasons, perhaps the most common, of why we fast is because God tells us to, and it has been handed down through tradition. But why?
We as humans are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. One of the things that Jesus did was he went into the desert for forty days without food or water (Matthew 4:1-2; Luke 4:1-2). We fast because Jesus did. But that’s not the only reason. We also fast to humble ourselves before God, submitting ourselves to His will. We also fast because it benefits us spiritually, allowing us to build our relationships with God. Fasting is one way we can atone for our sins as a way to purify our souls. It forces us to confront temptation and rise above it like how Jesus conquered evil in the desert (Mark 1:12-13).
There are many spiritual benefits to fasting, and there are also physical benefits as well. Fasting is linked to reduced blood sugar, reduced blood pressure, better cholesterol levels, and better memory, and increased growth hormone for muscle/ bone maintenance. Fasting can also be linked with the reduction of stress.
Overall, there are many benefits to fasting, and Lent provides a way for us to get into the Catholic fast lane to receiving those benefits.
Speiser is a senior studying English at North Dakota State University