What would you do to bring peace to the world? Our Peace and Nonviolence Committee has invited us to fast every First Friday for peace around the world. What does fasting have to do with bringing peace to the world? Isn’t it just a penance one does during Lent or a way to lose weight? Fasting for peace and justice involves focus, attention, solidarity and action.
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.’ Jesus said in reply, ‘It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 14: 1-4)
Jesus comes away from his time of fasting with a clear focus on what is right and what God wants Him to do. Fasting can help us focus on what’s important. Our fasting reminds us of the need for peace in the world and the need for people of peace. It can move us to become a person of peace.
Fasting is also used to turn our attention outwards. Individuals who fast for social justice do so to bring awareness to an issue. When Cesar Chavez or the Berrigan Brothers fasted publicly it drew attention to the plight of farm workers or the war in Vietnam. Fasting is a very visible sign that something must change and invites others to participate in that effort.
Fasting for peace builds solidarity with those who suffer from war and violence. When I am longing for that piece of chocolate, I’m reminded of those who are longing for an opportunity to go to school or walk around without worrying about shooting or bombs. My longing seems so simple, almost banal, but I am joined to my brothers and sisters who also long for peace. Jesuit Fr. Simon Harak, a longtime participant in the peace movement and professor at Marquette University writes, “You can’t think of yourself except as a member of a community…. When we fast in solidarity, we, in a sense, use our hunger as an engine for the desire for peace and justice for a particular group of people, whoever they may be. We are bringing the hunger of those for whom we fast into the body politic and we are calling for the body politic to respond.”
Fasting is an action. If you are like me, you are feeling very frustrated by the inability to understand the violence in the world and what to do about it. Fasting is a way to take action. We are doing something. “I know that God wants justice and so for me to fast is to align myself with God in God’s own hunger and thirst for justice.” (Simon Harak, SJ, in Carole Garibaldi Rogers’ Fasting…Exploring a Great Spiritual Practice.)
This Friday is the First Friday in December. It will be a chance to focus on, bring attention to, unite with, and act for peace in our world. Please join us.