PREPARING FOR THE FIGHT
Fasting, to which the Church invites us in this particular season, certainly is not motivated by the physical or aesthetical order, but stems from the need that man has for an interior purification that detoxifies him from the pollution of sin and evil. It educates him to that healthy renunciation that releases the believer from the slavery to self; that renders him more attentive and open to listen to God and to be at the service of the brethren. For this reason, fasting and the other Lenten practice are considered the traditional Christian spiritual "arms" used to fight evil, unhealthy passions, and vice. Concerning this, I would like to listen, together with you, to a brief commentary by St. John Chrysostom:
As at the end of winter, the summer season returns, and the navigator launches his boat into the sea: the solider polishes his arms and trains the horse for battle; the farmer sharpens the scythe; the wayfarer, strengthened, continues his journey; and the athlete sets aside his vestments and prepares for the race. So we, too, at the starts ot this fast, like returning to a spiritual springtime, we polish the arms like the soldiers; we sharpen the scythe like the farmers; and as mariners we launch the boat of our spirit to confront the waves of senseless passions; like the wayfarer we continue the journey to heaven; and as the athlete we prepare ourselves for the fight by totally setting aside everything. (cf. Homily to the People of Antioch, n. 3).
In the Message for Lent, I extended the invitation to live these forty days of special grace as a "Eucharistic" time. Drawing from the inexhaustible font of love that the Eucharist is, in which Christ renews the redemptive sacrifice of the cross, each Christian can persevere on the journey.
The works of charity (almsgiving), prayer, fasting, together with every sincere effort of conversion, find their most lofty significance and value in the Eucharist, center and culmination of the life of the Church and the history of salvation.
"Mary this Sacrament that we have received, O Father," we will pray at the end of Holy Mass, "sustain us on our Lenten way, make holy our fasting, and render it efficacious to heal our spirit." We ask Mary to accompany us so that at the end of Lent, we may contemplate the risen Lord, interiorly renewed and reconciled with God and our brethren. Amen!
- Homily, Ash Wednesday, February 21, 2007
From Lent with Pope Benedict XVI: Meditations for Every Day