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The Point of Fasting Even When It’s Not Lent


Sherry Antonetti - published on 04/08/16

I was reminded: left to my own devices, no promise made will ever be kept

Jesus gives particular counsels about how to present ourselves when we’re fasting (head anointed, face washed and no glum expressions), but perhaps we overlook the fact that his advice for “when you fast” presupposes that we will be fasting.

Even outside of distinct “seasons” like Lent, fasting is a powerful discipline that should accompany the Christian life year-round.

I recently resolved to fast as part of my intercession for someone I love and pray for, someone dear to me who has left the faith. I want her back.

The Gospel tells us to pray and fast in such circumstances, and so I’ve chosen to fast from bread for this intention. Giving up something for someone else has always been easier for me than doing it for myself. I cannot diet, but I can fast. For myself, those carbs are like the food version of sirens.

Today, the sirens got me to take my mind off my intention and led me to dash my resolution to the shoals in the moment of un-mindfulness — a moment of just wanting to not be bothered.

I’d love to say that what I opted to eat was some exotic wonderful delicacy and the aroma overwhelmed my brain. Instead, it was stupid. It was a leftover bagel from my kid who didn’t finish his breakfast. It wasn’t even my favorite type of bagel, and it had butter instead of cream cheese.

Before I’d even swallowed, I was regretting it. Not because it didn’t taste good or because I became overwhelmed with guilt or felt like God would strike me down, but because I let myself down.

I was reminded: left to my own devices, no promise made will ever be kept. Fasting and failing at fasting confirms for me as success never could how much I need God. My will is forever insufficient.

Going to adoration, I’ve come to realize how I should spiritually look upon the person for whom I’m fasting as I look upon the Eucharist. I need to look at her with that much love. When I bear this in mind, the bread doesn’t look tempting. In fact, it seems completely ridiculous to struggle with such a small temptation.

My failure reminded me that fasting is a swift way for God to teach us about how weak and dependent we are — and of the motes in our own eyes — even as it brings graces and gifts to the recipient.

Denying our appetites reminds us we are not to be ruled by them. And being defeated by a leftover bagel shows just how much effort and attention I must continue to put into subjecting my appetites to reason.

Fortunately, the solution is simple: to start over and remember again: this fast is for both of us.

And I am noticing progress. The walls this person has held around her heart are softer since the fast began. She calls. She talks. When she calls, I stop. No matter what I have on my schedule, my time is hers to waste.

She called today. I turned in my spirit to her face, and all I could think was, Her soul is so worth it.

So I begin again … and put all the bagels in the freezer.

Sherry Antonetti is a former special educator and currently a freelance writer and mother of 10. She writes at and her blog, Chocolate for Your Brain. E-mail her at

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