One pronounced effect of fasting is hunger. Is it good to be hungry? All three Synoptic Gospels speak of Jesus being hungry after fasting in the desert. During His time of hunger, Jesus was tempted by satan.
Hunger is a natural experience that tells us that our bodies need food. Of course, if we build a habit of indulgent eating, our appetites will hunger for more, even when we do not need more food. Hunger, in its balanced state, identifies a lacking and drives us to satisfy it. It’s helpful to understand that physical hunger can also produce great spiritual effects in the soul. When our bodies are temporarily deprived of food, the hunger produced can help us more clearly perceive the spiritual hunger we have within our souls. That spiritual hunger persists until we are completely united with God. We can never get enough of God in this life, so we will forever long for more of Him. However, we can easily cover up the spiritual hunger we have for God by indulging our bodily appetites to the point that we no longer pay attention to the deeper spiritual hunger. When we fast from food, and become more aware of our physical hunger, a light shines more clearly on our spiritual hunger that is crying out to be satisfied.
Thus, fasting from food is not done simply for the sake of fasting or because we have to do so on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday according to Church regulations. Ideally, we will willingly practice fasting every week, even outside of Lent, as a way of helping ourselves never to forget the emptiness within that needs God’s spiritual satiation.
If you do not fast regularly, consider making this a part of your weekly routine, beginning this Lent. Fasting and every other penitential practice have as their goal the purification of our bodily desires so that our spiritual desires will become more evident. Only when we perceive these spiritual longings within, can we begin to allow God to be the One Who satiates them.
Ponder the experience of hunger in light of Jesus’ physical hunger in the desert. Though He always longed for His Father and always remained perfectly one with Him, Jesus allowed Himself to endure physical hunger to reveal the spiritual benefit of fasting. Learn from His hunger and commit yourself to the practice of physical fasting so that you will be able to more clearly perceive the spiritual longing you have for God within the depths of your soul.
My penitential Lord, though You were perfect in every way and always enjoyed full communion with Your Father, You allowed Your human nature to experience the hunger of fasting so that You could infuse that penitential act with Your divine grace. Please give me the resolve I need to form a habit of fasting and self-denial so that I will perceive more clearly the hunger I have for You, Your Father, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus, I trust in You.