Fasting is a spiritual discipline that I still struggle to do. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve done it in the past I still find this very difficult. I’m also known for sharing with others when I’ve fasted, not to show off but because I am so proud of my achievement and the result i.e. renewed strength and prayers answered. I’m still learning to heed part of this command.
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6: 16-18 NLT)
I once asked a wise seer for some advise on how to improve my spiritual life, while I am on mission in South Africa and this is his response;
“Fast twice a week and give alms.”
Twice per week! I exclaimed, but then I thought that if an 83-year-old man can do this then so can I.
The first time I decided to try this was on Human Rights Day, particularly because this wise seer was sitting next to me at a breakfast gathering and probably because I wanted to impress him. It didn’t last for long because in less than an hour my blood sugar level dropped and I had to rush to the nearest Spar to grab some mixed nuts, banana and anything that would help me to feel better. That’s the result for fasting for the wrong reasons.
After that failed attempt I began two week ago to try fasting again on a Saturday. Previous to this, I was going through a bad week and nothing seemed to help then I remember the advise I was given and decide to put it into practice. I must confess that after the first fast I felt so renewed in strength that I now relish the thought of spending time in quiet with God, reading the scriptures praying on particular points and meditating every Saturday. I find myself struggling to leave my room at the end of the fast – around 6pm to integrate back into the YW community which is a great thing. My aim is to slowly work my way up to fasting twice per week.
Cape Town has a fair amount of beggars usually homeless people who turn to begging for survival. Their sad appearance and persistence makes them hard to ignore. I don’t believe in giving money to people on the streets as I am told that most street people have issues with substance abuse and that they are unlikely to address their problems and find alternate income if they obtain money easily from begging. I have taken to giving to St George’s Cathedral Food Parcel ministry as well as enquiring about feeding the homeless through the ‘Bread 4 Life’ ministry at a local Dutch Reformed Church. That I am yet to start doing.
I’m continuing to do my daily prayer of examen in assessing the day and giving thanks to God. Apart from this I’ve drawn some inspirational advice from a best selling classic I’m reading on how to heal the spirit and lift the weight of the world. Each morning, after prayer as I contemplate my day, I find it helpful to ask the Lord three questions.
Where would you have me go?
What would you have me do?
What would you have me say, and to whom?
If anything, I find this add purpose to my day.
This morning as I was heading to church, feeling strengthened after a previous day of fasting, I saw a young man at the bus stop fishing through a dust bin for food. As mentioned previously, I don’t believe in giving money to people on the streets but I felt led on this occasion to offer this young man some money – not that I had much in my purse. I manage to get his attention from the bin, gave him some money and told him to go and get himself some food. He said thank you and as he made his way to the nearby 7Eleven, he turned back halfway and waved to me and shouted ‘Happy Mother’s Day’
I must confessed that this really moved me as I am not a Mother per se i.e. I don’t have children but I graciously accepted it on this occasion to be acknowledged as a mother in that one small act.
I was reminded in church today that being a Mother does not only mean having children but showing some maternal tenderness and compassion. This is one role I am still toying with and calmly resisting especially in working and living at the YW. I would much prefer to be a seen as a big sister. I’m beginning to feel like an oyster with this grain of sand.
A grain of sand makes its way into the deepest parts of the oyster.
It is an irritant and very uncomfortable.
The oyster knows what it must do…
It embraces the irritant…
Steadfastly, the oyster begins to cover the grain of sand…
With layer upon layer of its velvety, protective substance.
After many years, months and days much effort has been made,
to change its internal environment completely
with a lasting testament.
From a painful, irritating invader – comes a beautiful one-of-a-kind Pearl.
Struggle to treasure: the pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.”
(The Pearl is the Oyster’s Autobiography.” ~ Frederico Fellin)
A Mother in this Motherland? Well, there is a time and season for everything and this season I am tempted to delay rather than embrace.
In the meantime I’ll continue to work on the advise from the wise seer and continue with my daily examen in improving my spiritual life.
Karen, God bless you. Fast twice a week and give alms.
~Fr. Desmond 21.3.2014
“Do not be afraid to enter the cloud that is settling down on your life. God is in it. The other side is radiant with His glory.”
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever
We will rejoice and be glad in it.“
[Psalm 118 v 1,24 NLT]
Happy Mother’s Day!