Fasting and Abstinence. Are they important? Are they necessary? The Church, as a caring mother, is providing us a specific means and season for completing acts of penance, such as fasting and abstinence. Her goal is to see to it that her children attain eternal life. Her precept on fasting, then, is for our spiritual benefit.
The spiritual benefits of fasting are many. Not only is it an excellent means of engaging in penance, as Christians are required to do, but it confers other benefits such as helping to build self-mastery, the control of the soul over the desires of the flesh.
The season of Lent is penitential in character. Blessed Paul VI teaches in his apostolic constitution Paenitemini that “by divine law all the faithful are required to do penance” (Chapter III, I., 1).
Epiphany refers to the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles represented by the magi. In the gospel we are presented with a contrast between three figures: Jesus, Herod the Great, and the magi who journey into the night in search of not merely a sign from God, but rather the Christ Child himself, the “newborn king of the Jews” (Mt 2:2).
We often set off on an unceasing quest to distance ourselves from every anxiety, and thus begin to live in such a way as to constantly seek change for “the better.” There is a self-inflicted stress in such a life; a nervous movement toward some savored goal.