By Rachel Burkey
About 10 years ago, I was reading up on the importance of fasting after one of my former teachers had mentioned how fruitful fasting was for her. After doing some research, I thought, ‘Why not?’, so every Wednesday for 2 years I would fast from all foods except for bread and water. But let’s face it, when given the choice between bread and chicken parmesan or bread and a juicy cheeseburger, most people will choose the latter, which is exactly what I did and eventually fell out of the habit. However, this year, after taking several years’ hiatus from fasting, I met someone who mentioned that he fasted twice a week. Can you imagine? Two days a week only with bread and water? After several weeks I thought, if he can do it, I can, too.
So now, on this dreary Wednesday afternoon, I’m writing to you from the kitchen table after my afternoon toast. Yes, my stomach is growling. Yes, I’m staring at coffee, chocolate, watching other members of my family eat my favorite foods, and it’s hard. And yes, you experience temptation, sometimes become irritable, and maybe have moments that are not your best.
So why am I rambling about fasting? One of the parts of the Liturgy of the Word that I sometimes miss is the responsorial psalm. I kind of zone out, trying so hard to follow the melody that I lose track of the text; however, the psalms are my favorite things to read from Scripture. David lived a life that was full of ups and downs: adultery, murderous attempts against his life, incredibly daunting battles. Yet even in his laments, he comes back to one theme: We need God. When you take away all of the luxuries of this world like food, drink, and all the other things that we think we need, we find ourselves in need of something or someone to get us through. At the end of a day of fasting, I am constantly reminded that I need God’s grace to get me through the day, and that the luxuries are only temporary replacements for our ultimate need for Him.
In this week’s responsorial psalm, we hear: “The Lord is kind and merciful”. He pardons our iniquities, heals all our ills, and redeems our life from destruction. He takes care of us, and when we ask Him for help, He always provides. So in these days of Lenten journey, whether you are fasting from sweets, a favorite food, or fasting from a sin you struggle with, when you encounter those struggles where a piece of chocolate is sitting in front of you or you see your favorite food on the menu, challenge yourself and recognize that it is not these material things that can bring us peace, but it is in fact the One who blesses us with each and every day. Take that moment and lay your burdens down at His feet, and He will give you peace that chocolate and those favorite foods can never satisfy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rachel Burkey is originally from Nashville, TN, but currently resides in Cleveland, OH. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University in German and Italian, her Master's in Education from Lipscomb University, and is currently working on her Master's in Theology at Saint Mary's Seminary in Cleveland, OH. She teaches theology at Gilmour Academy and also functions as a LifeTeen music director at several parishes within the diocese. In addition to her teaching and music ministries, she enjoys spending much of her time writing liturgical music, leading worship around the country, and speaking at retreats and other conferences.