Three Biblical Reasons Fasting and Self-Denial

Every year at the beginning of Lent, I’m encouraged and excited about it. However after a few weeks (like today), I start growing weary of the fasting and penance. So in order to remind myself of why we’re keeping Lent, here are more reflections on what Bible teaches about fasting and self-denial:

1. Fasting as a Preparation for a Divine Event
In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, self-denial is a way of preparing spiritually for something spiritually important. Of course, in Lent we are spiritually preparing the the Easter celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Moses fasted for forty days in preparation for receiving the Ten Commandments (Ex 34:28). The prophet Daniel fasted for three weeks before receiving his vision (Dan 10:2-6). Elijah the prophet fasted forty days before God spoke to him (1 Kings 19:8). And we all know that Christ our Savior fasted for forty days in preparation for His temptation by the devil and for the beginning of His ministry (Mt 4:1-11, Lk 4:1-13).

2. Fasting as Penitence
A few weeks ago we looked at the Bible verses for penitence or repentance. The fact is that we are sinners. Self-denial, then, has a twofold purpose. First, penance is a outward sign of an inward contrition. We outwardly express to God our inward sorrow for sin.

Secondly, penance or self-sacrifice is a remedy for future sin. If you teach yourself to say “no” to good things (meat, desserts, comforts, marital pleasure) then you strengthen your will to resist bad things (sin). For example, you’re not going to be able to rescue someone pinned under a car (a bad thing) if you don’t daily lift weights and build muscle (a good thing).

The concept of penance or self-sacrifice is all over the Bible. Jonah prophesied the destruction of pagan Nineveh, but the Ninevites fasted as a sign of repentance and God spared them (Jonah 3:3-9). The Jewish Day of Atonement was an annual day of obligation of fasting for all Hebrews (Numbers 29:7). In fact, whenever Israel sinned, they “humbled themselves,” wore sackcloth, put on ashes, and fasted in order to show God their sorrow for sin (cf. Judges 20:26, 1 Sam 7:6).

3. Fasting for Sorrow
In the Bible, sometimes fasting simply shows sorrow. When tragic things happen, we sometimes lose our appetite naturally. This human experience is also found in Scripture. King David fasted as a sign of grief when Abner was killed (2 Samuel 3:35). There was also a seven-day fast at the death of Saul (1 Samuel 31:13). During Holy Week, and especially on Good Friday, we should be fasting for sorrow, because the “Bridegroom has been taken away from us” (cf. (Matthew 9:14-15; Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:33-35).

So keep up your penance and reflect on Christ as the Crucified One in order to find strength. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us! We’re almost half way through Lent.

The Humility of Christ Becoming Human (St Leo the Great)

Below is a beautiful passage from Pope Saint Leo the Great. He describes how Christ’s incarnation “enlarged” humanity but did not “diminish” His divinity:

  He took the nature of a servant without stain of sin, enlarging our humanity without diminishing his divinity. He emptied himself; though invisible he made himself visible, though Creator and Lord of all things he chose to be one of us mortal men. Yet this was the condescension of compassion, not the loss of omnipotence. So he who in the nature of God had created man, became in the nature of a servant, man himself.

  Thus the Son of God enters this lowly world. He comes down from the throne of heaven, yet does not separate himself from the Father’s glory. He is born in a new condition, by a new birth.

  He was born in a new condition, for, invisible in his own nature, he became visible in ours. Beyond our grasp, he chose to come within our grasp. Existing before time began, he began to exist at a moment in time. Lord of the universe, he hid his infinite glory and took the nature of a servant. Incapable of suffering as God, he did not refuse to be a man, capable of suffering. Immortal, he chose to be subject to the laws of death.

  He who is true God is also true man. There is no falsehood in this unity as long as the lowliness of man and the pre-eminence of God coexist in mutual relationship.

  As God does not change by his condescension, so man is not swallowed up by being exalted. Each nature exercises its own activity, in communion with the other. The Word does what is proper to the Word, the flesh fulfils what is proper to the flesh.

  One nature is resplendent with miracles, the other falls victim to injuries. As the Word does not lose equality with the Father’s glory, so the flesh does not leave behind the nature of our race.

  One and the same person – this must be said over and over again – is truly the Son of God and truly the son of man. He is God in virtue of the fact that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He is man in virtue of the fact that the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

-Ex Epístolis sancti Leónis Magni Papæ (Epist. 28, ad Flavianum, 3-4: PL 54, 763-767).

Happy solemnity of the Annunciation and Incarnation! God is with us. Go to the Tabernacle. He waits for you.

The Humility of Christ Becoming Human (St Leo the Great)

Below is a beautiful passage from Pope Saint Leo the Great. He describes how Christ’s incarnation “enlarged” humanity but did not “diminish” His divinity:

  He took the nature of a servant without stain of sin, enlarging our humanity without diminishing his divinity. He emptied himself; though invisible he made himself visible, though Creator and Lord of all things he chose to be one of us mortal men. Yet this was the condescension of compassion, not the loss of omnipotence. So he who in the nature of God had created man, became in the nature of a servant, man himself.

  Thus the Son of God enters this lowly world. He comes down from the throne of heaven, yet does not separate himself from the Father’s glory. He is born in a new condition, by a new birth.

  He was born in a new condition, for, invisible in his own nature, he became visible in ours. Beyond our grasp, he chose to come within our grasp. Existing before time began, he began to exist at a moment in time. Lord of the universe, he hid his infinite glory and took the nature of a servant. Incapable of suffering as God, he did not refuse to be a man, capable of suffering. Immortal, he chose to be subject to the laws of death.

  He who is true God is also true man. There is no falsehood in this unity as long as the lowliness of man and the pre-eminence of God coexist in mutual relationship.

  As God does not change by his condescension, so man is not swallowed up by being exalted. Each nature exercises its own activity, in communion with the other. The Word does what is proper to the Word, the flesh fulfils what is proper to the flesh.

  One nature is resplendent with miracles, the other falls victim to injuries. As the Word does not lose equality with the Father’s glory, so the flesh does not leave behind the nature of our race.

  One and the same person – this must be said over and over again – is truly the Son of God and truly the son of man. He is God in virtue of the fact that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He is man in virtue of the fact that the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

-Ex Epístolis sancti Leónis Magni Papæ (Epist. 28, ad Flavianum, 3-4: PL 54, 763-767).

Happy solemnity of the Annunciation and Incarnation! God is with us. Go to the Tabernacle. He waits for you.

Demons Dare Not Speak Against Mary (Father Amorth)

Happy feast day of the Annunciation and Incarnation.

In elder times, this day was sometimes called “Lady Day” in reference to our Blessed Lady’s “yes” to God with regard to the Incarnation of Christ.

Our Lady’s sanctity and role in salvation are highlighted by the the vanquishing power of Mary over the demons.

The chief exorcist of Rome, Father Gabriel Amorth, wrote an excellent book An Exorcist Tells His Story. It’s a difficult book to read, but it reminds you of the overarching reality that Christ has already and continues to crush the head of Satan.

Interesting fact: According Fr. Amorth and other exorcists, demons are not allowed to blaspheme the Blessed Virgin Mary. They curse the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and also the saints. But they never curse Mary and shrink back from doing so. The hypothesis is that Christ prevents the demons from doing this or that it has something to do with the prophecy in Gen 3:15 about enmity between Satan and “the Woman” who bore the Christ Child.

Interesting to consider, if you ask this Papist.

Buy Father Amorth’s book here:

Demons Dare Not Speak Against Mary (Father Amorth)

Happy feast day of the Annunciation and Incarnation.

In elder times, this day was sometimes called “Lady Day” in reference to our Blessed Lady’s “yes” to God with regard to the Incarnation of Christ.

Our Lady’s sanctity and role in salvation are highlighted by the the vanquishing power of Mary over the demons.

The chief exorcist of Rome, Father Gabriel Amorth, wrote an excellent book An Exorcist Tells His Story. It’s a difficult book to read, but it reminds you of the overarching reality that Christ has already and continues to crush the head of Satan.

Interesting fact: According Fr. Amorth and other exorcists, demons are not allowed to blaspheme the Blessed Virgin Mary. They curse the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and also the saints. But they never curse Mary and shrink back from doing so. The hypothesis is that Christ prevents the demons from doing this or that it has something to do with the prophecy in Gen 3:15 about enmity between Satan and “the Woman” who bore the Christ Child.

Interesting to consider, if you ask this Papist.

Buy Father Amorth’s book here:

John Paul 2 Wanted Confession DURING Sunday Mass

In some parishes throughout the world (and even at St Peter’s in Rome), priests hear confessions during Holy Mass – I’ve seen it with my own eyes in Saint Peter’s in Rome. In fact, in many places, priests hear confessions before Mass, during Mass, and after Mass. At one parish, there is a priest in the confessional from 7am till 2pm (7 hours)! These priests are very devoted to what Saint Paul the Apostle called ministry of reconciliation (ministerium reconciliationis in the Vulgate – 2 Cor 5:18). Deo gratias!

There is always a steady line of people at the back of the Church waiting for confession.

Sometimes visitors remark in dismay, “What? Confession during Mass? Doesn’t that detract from the Eucharist?”

Is there a good answer to this question?

I was speaking with a wonderful diocesan priest who informed me that none other than His Holiness John Paul II specifically asked that Catholic priests to offer confession DURING Holy Mass when a second priest is available. Confession during Mass isn’t some medieval confusion or preference of the traddies. It’s the explicit desire of our last Holy Father – John Paul II.

Here’s the complete quote from His Holiness Pope John Paul II in his Motu Proprio Misercordia Dei (April 7, 2002) in which he asked for confessions during Masses.:

2. Local Ordinaries, and parish priests and rectors of churches and shrines, should periodically verify that the greatest possible provision is in fact being made for the faithful to confess their sins. It is particularly recommended that in places of worship confessors be visibly present at the advertised times, that these times be adapted to the real circumstances of penitents, and that confessions be especially available before Masses, and even during Mass if there are other priests available, in order to meet the needs of the faithful.

If other priests are available there should be confessions “especially” before Masses and “even” during Mass

Pretty interesting.

Thanks be to God for the sacrament of penance. It’s one of my favorite things about being Catholic.

John Paul 2 Wanted Confession DURING Sunday Mass

In some parishes throughout the world (and even at St Peter’s in Rome), priests hear confessions during Holy Mass – I’ve seen it with my own eyes in Saint Peter’s in Rome. In fact, in many places, priests hear confessions before Mass, during Mass, and after Mass. At one parish, there is a priest in the confessional from 7am till 2pm (7 hours)! These priests are very devoted to what Saint Paul the Apostle called ministry of reconciliation (ministerium reconciliationis in the Vulgate – 2 Cor 5:18). Deo gratias!

There is always a steady line of people at the back of the Church waiting for confession.

Sometimes visitors remark in dismay, “What? Confession during Mass? Doesn’t that detract from the Eucharist?”

Is there a good answer to this question?

I was speaking with a wonderful diocesan priest who informed me that none other than His Holiness John Paul II specifically asked that Catholic priests to offer confession DURING Holy Mass when a second priest is available. Confession during Mass isn’t some medieval confusion or preference of the traddies. It’s the explicit desire of our last Holy Father – John Paul II.

Here’s the complete quote from His Holiness Pope John Paul II in his Motu Proprio Misercordia Dei (April 7, 2002) in which he asked for confessions during Masses.:

2. Local Ordinaries, and parish priests and rectors of churches and shrines, should periodically verify that the greatest possible provision is in fact being made for the faithful to confess their sins. It is particularly recommended that in places of worship confessors be visibly present at the advertised times, that these times be adapted to the real circumstances of penitents, and that confessions be especially available before Masses, and even during Mass if there are other priests available, in order to meet the needs of the faithful.

If other priests are available there should be confessions “especially” before Masses and “even” during Mass

Pretty interesting.

Thanks be to God for the sacrament of penance. It’s one of my favorite things about being Catholic.

Interest Rates, Usury, and the Council of Nicea

Many people like to say, “Oh the Catholic Church can and does change. Just as the Church “changed her mind” on usury, so the Church can “change her mind” about ______ (Fill in the blank: abortion, contraception, women’s ordination, etc.).

Is this true? Did the Church flip flop on the moral issue of usury?

First what is “usury”? Usury is charging excessive interest. Not interest per se. Even the Dominicans of Salamanca of the 16th century recognized this (and also the problems of inflation and price flux).

The key text however in this debate should be Canon XVII of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea in AD 325, which reads:

Since many clergyman have been induced by greed and avarice to forget the sacred text, “who does not put out his money at interest”, and to charge one per cent a month on loans, this holy and great synod judges that if any are found after this decision to receive interest by contract or to transact the business in any other way or to charge a rate of fifty per cent or in general to devise any other contrivance for the sake of dishonourable gain, they shall be deposed from the clergy and their names struck from the roll.

So a priest who charged interest over one percent a month was to be convicted and thus laicized (i.e. struck from the canonical roll of the bishop). So what is “one per cent per month”? It is what we would call today an annual percentage rate of 12.7%. That’s a pretty high rate given our current Fed established rate.

Thus, the ecumenical council of Nicea I, made a provision for a limited form of loaning money – even for the clergy.

One more thing to be said is that our contemporary “money” is a fiat currency that is not backed by any limited natural element like gold. Hence, new money can be printed and consequently, we experience inflation (i.e. the more dollars in existence leads to a less valuable dollar over time). Since inflation constantly eats away at the value of a paper currency, “loaning” money without interest is actually unjust since it does not recognize the continual depletion of value of currency in such a situation.

Disclaimer: I’m against debt and I agree with the divinely inspired Book of Proverbs – he who enters into debt enters into a kind of slavery. See Prov 22:7.