Weekly Reflection 02/14/2021


February 14, 2021

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Living Lent

 

As we prepare for this Lenten season, I’d like to suggest reflecting on an incident from Matthew’s gospel.  The disciples are unable to drive a demon out of a child, and after Jesus Himself performs the cure, they ask why they were unable to drive it out.  Jesus rebukes them for their “little faith” and goes on to say that “this kind [of demon] does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

Any time Jesus was about to embark on something big, he always began with fasting and prayer.  We live a very different culture, and modern advice often emphasizes “fasting” from things like entertainment, or gossip, or treats.  That kind of discipline may lead to a powerful experience.  But that’s not what our Lord did.  When Jesus fasted, He fasted from food.  He led Himself into uncomfortable physical hunger.

As Catholic podcaster Matt Fradd noted, “Fasting without prayer is just dieting.”  Jesus’ fasting was always accompanied by intentional, intense, and intimate prayer.  His physical and literal emptying of himself wasn’t undirected: by opening Himself up completely to His Father, both physically through fasting and spiritually through prayer, Jesus was able to put himself completely in the presence of God.

As we get ready for a this season in which our goal is to strengthen our relationship with God and attempt to become more Christlike, we can reflect on the “dynamic duo” of fasting and prayer and consider how these spiritual tools can enable us on our journey towards God.  We can consider where our faith is; if the Twelve Apostles’ faith was “little” by Jesus reckoning, then we need to be honest with our self-evaluation!  We can reflect on the demons we see in ourselves, our life, and our world, think about how we are approaching these malignant spirits, and maybe go to Jesus with the same question his apostles had:  why are we failing to drive out these demons?  We may wish to consider if we have been trying to solve spiritual problems with secular solutions, and perhaps contemplate where true, honest fasting, and true, honest prayer can play a role in energizing our relationship with Jesus and empowering us to follow in His way and be victorious in the spiritual battles in our lives.

 

– Bill Merlock