I really could have said that the three themes for fasting this week (instead of gratitude, right submission of authority and humility) are humility, humility, and humility. Because fasting really only boils down to that.
When I first associated with people who fasted regularly (as a non-denominational charismatic) and I started fasting with them, I had no one who taught me what it meant. They only vaguely swept me along in what we did: refrain from eating. Now, by nature I stop eating when I'm stressed. So I vaguely formed myself in fasting with this thought that what God really wanted from me was to inflict some kind of misery upon myself, some kind of deprivation, so that I would get brownie points from God. I didn't articulate it so clearly to myself, but I see now that's what I believed as I tried to imitate the people I saw around me.
The same mentality stayed with me after I became a Catholic and actually started fasting more often.
The fact that I never got cozy with this vague notion seemed both to fit my idea of what fasting is, and fight against it.
And then I had this moment of revelation that involved Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery." I realized that, like the people in her fictitious town, I was trying to make a sacrificial offering of myself to buy something spiritual. The bullhorn of spiritual correction from the Lord to me was that Jesus had already done that, and my attempt to substitute myself for Him for the salvation of the world was prideful, death-wishing spiritual masochism.
Fasting is not about that.
Fasting is about humility.
Fasting is about acknowledging that I am needy and that I cannot fill myself with what I most need; I must receive it. I am a beggar before God, but I am a deeply loved beggar who tends towards deafness when my Lover calls to me. Fasting is not about getting God to hear me. It is about acknowledging that He always hears me... every excuse, every doubt, every over-confident assertion. It is about my coming back to Reality, which is where God dwells.
It is about opening my eyes to see. It is about opening wide my mouth, so that God may fill it.
So let's pray. Let's fast. Let's turn to God and wait for Him to act. Let's let Him change us.