Today is a day of fast and abstinence. Let not the aroma of apple-wood barbecue waft its charms before your quivering nostrils. Listen not to the hiss of rib-eye steaks landing on a hot grill. Avert your gaze from that mouthwatering slab of juicy prime rib. And don't even think about delicately crispy, maple-tinged bacon.
This is a time of year when one reflects on the affluence that has made us weak and effeminate. There are only two days out of the whole year when the Church asks us to fast, and this is one. And it is a wrench! We devote so much time and energy to scoping out the outer limits of the Church's breathtakingly lenient regulations. We rack our brains to come up with ways of getting away with as much as possible without actually breaking the law. We go out of our way to avoid the slightest discomfort.
There is nothing wrong with affluence in itself, that we ought to feel guilty merely because we have everything we need, plus extra. There is something wrong with the undue attachment to our stuff that makes it an end in itself. There is something wrong with having the thought of parting with it, or even setting it aside for a time, disturb our peace. And there is something wrong with not using it to further the Kingdom of God. It all ought to further the Kingdom of God, even the stuff we keep for ourselves. What we keep for ourselves ought ultimately to be geared toward getting us into heaven.
Am I pointing fingers? No. I suffer from the same disordered attachments to my stuff, of which I have far too much; and I am also far too invested in comfort and convenience. I am a huge fan of indoor plumbing, and central heating, and iPhones, and wi-fi lights, and high-speed Internet; and I really, really love butter and bacon. I'd hate to have to do without these things. But, after all, that is what a fast day is about: learning to do without. Fasting trains us in the regulation of our passions.
And, contrary to popular fears, a well-regulated fast does not hurt us. Fasting is healthful.
It's also very simple. Maybe, instead of coming up with ways to play with the Church's fasting regulations, it would be a lot simpler to just not eat at all today and only drink water, tea or coffee? Then we can know for sure we have complied with the law and not have to worry about it!
Just a thought.