Day 3: Fasting as an Invitation

BY CRYSTAL CATALAN | February 19, 2021
Today’s Readings

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples of John that there is a time for fasting, and there is a time for rejoicing, as when one is with the bridegroom. 

I remember one morning when Sr. Terezina Lumbieri and I were traveling through the mountains of Baguio City, Philippines. Fr. Elgar Bautista was driving and I was in the back of the truck with six members of the choir, two altar servers, and a lector. We were like a traveling church! Embracing the experience, it was a moment to remember. 

Fasting as an Invitation

Baguio City, Phillipines

When we arrived, I saw tarps up, chairs all around, and people ready for Mass, waiting for us to arrive. My eyes started to water, as I thought to myself, “THIS is Church.” There were no walls, no roof, but there were people gathered, and there was much indescribable beauty in the simplicity of the gathering. The wind and rain started to pick up, but Mass did not skip a beat.

When I think about fasting, I think about the invitation to be present to others, for Christ is in them. I reflect on the importance of being in the moment and of being fully present in mind and heart to the person and people I am surrounded by. As a result, I have no pictures, but vivid memories of that special day. There was joy throughout the Mass despite the cold, and when we had to leave, there was sadness, not knowing when we would be together again.

What can you fast from, so you can be more fully present to others? Time spent on social media? Not checking your email while you’re in a Zoom? What can you feast on, to build meaningful, authentic relationships with others? Empathy? Humility and patience? The invitation is here.

20 replies
  1. John Daniels
    John Daniels says:

    Thank you for this story, and this question that places fasting as a means to be present to others, rather than a distracting, self-centered project doomed to either failure or pride. You have provided me with a seed to take in and pray into flower.

  2. Antonio J. Rodriguez
    Antonio J. Rodriguez says:

    Una vez leí sobre el ayuno,y lo creo:
    El mejor ayuno, es prescindir de todo aquello que nos impide hacer la voluntad de Dios,

  3. Annie
    Annie says:

    We try to do all these big things that we feel are pleasing to the Lord. Sometimes I think that we neglect what is right in front of us…it looks to easy… we judge our fasting with something extraordinary instead of seeing the extra in the ordinary!
    In our own homes, work places and communities we have so many opportunities to make things right, and just for others.
    Maybe this Lent I need to begin by seeing, hearing and ministering to the people around me.

  4. Mary Jo Williams
    Mary Jo Williams says:

    This is truly Church, us, ready to be available to ourselves and others. When we as why our clergy is not responding; we remember we are Church.

  5. Juan
    Juan says:

    I feel the need to fast from food. I think I have always had an eating disorder and while I am slightly overweight, I need to really focus as to the origins of this addiction. At the same time, I don’t want to obsess this Lent about ME but also reach out more socially to family and friends whether that means a letter or a phone call.

    • Ed
      Ed says:

      Fasting as a Spiritual practice is the only way I can ever manage it, because of all those unknown root causes making me crazy. Only by making the fasting a commitment to Jesus can I succeed. I’m trying to do that as a Lenten practice.

  6. Abraham Alarcón
    Abraham Alarcón says:

    Moving story and really liked how you connected it to fasting and Lent. I can fast from talking and always wanting to problem solve for others. I know I can listen more and thus, be present.

  7. Ann Puck
    Ann Puck says:

    The Spirit of a people of God, wanting to be with Jesus and their neighbor- good or not so by someone not so caring. Patience is a gift but is a stumbling block when faced with individualism. For myself, patience fir non- caring people is what I pray mor earnestly and recognize that my sin may or probably the same. God loves ALL! Amen

  8. Dr Eileen Quinn Knight
    Dr Eileen Quinn Knight says:

    The thoughts about fasting were excellent for me. To be intentionally present to others in life as the writer states, is a way to fast from our own self-reflection. It provides us with the graces that we need for that presence and call all the faithful to fast from our own pre-occupation and to offer ourselves to others with whom we work or live. To me this is the best essay for me and I am sure others to understand fasting for Lent.

  9. Barbara Goins
    Barbara Goins says:

    That story brought to mind two experiences of “church”. The first, was gathering together in our damaged church, with no power, after Hurricane Andrew to celebrate Mass. That was church. I was brought to tears. Everything was stripped away, but us and the Eucharist. The second is today’s world. We currently meet outdoors in the yard of the church to have services. Again, all is stripped away except people, gathering together to pray and break bread.

  10. Martha Olivares
    Martha Olivares says:

    The author states that she has no pictures of the outdoor Mas sin the Philippines, just the experience- aren’t those cautionary words for all of us these days? I know I’m guilty. We take pictures of our food, for heaven’s sake- but the dinner conversation? What about that? Thank you. And bless you.

  11. Molly Weyrens
    Molly Weyrens says:

    HA! Loved your idea about not checking emails during a ZOOM – when I had JUST done that! I appreciated your reminder about being fully present. Fully is not easy, but oh so holy.

  12. Esteban del Río
    Esteban del Río says:

    I was delighted to see Crystal Catalan, a student of mine at the University of San Diego, provide the Lenten reflection in my inbox. I’m so proud of her and her vocation — and doubly inspired by her reflection on fasting. Thank you!

  13. Kathy Montross
    Kathy Montross says:

    Do you want to fast this Lent?
    Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
    Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
    Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
    Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
    Fast from worries and trust in God.
    Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
    Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
    Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy.
    Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.
    Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
    Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.

    Pope Francis (2017)

  14. Eileen Miranda
    Eileen Miranda says:

    Well said Crystal. Thank you. I will try to fast my concerns for tomorrow to just enjoy today. Blessings

  15. Ray Rosch
    Ray Rosch says:

    What can I fast from today? Phone. Social media. Easy to see. What about household chores – laundry, washing dishes, cleaning floors, the bathroom? Not so easy to see. Volunteering at/for church – a schedule for Lay Ministry for March 2021, calls for distribution of Lenten Bible Study materials, delivery of these materials. Difficult to see? Personal time to rest and rejuvenate after a 90 minute Bible Study last night which took away my “end of the day” to read and relax? Is there an answer here? SOOOO WHAT CAN I FAST FROM TODAY? I need your help God. Amen.

  16. Catherine J. Alfano
    Catherine J. Alfano says:

    I am praying about the words: “to be present to others, FOR CHRIST IS IN THEM’

    thank you

  17. Sr. Lucille Souza
    Sr. Lucille Souza says:

    Thanks for reminding us what really is important is our presence to the situation and especially the person or people we are encountering. This present moment is a gift from God or it might be God himself/herself.


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