What will eating less food accomplish?

By Joe Geniesse | Special to The Compass | March 12, 2014

As Catholics, we are asked to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday to make our Lent a more meaningful time. The purpose of this for me personally has been to wake me up and make me attentive to what is at hand. Strategically, it happens at the very beginning of Lent and then at the end of Lent, in the middle of the Easter Triduum.

Lenten Series 2014:  The three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving

Lenten Series 2014:

The three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving

Part I: Introduction by Bishop Morneau

Part II: Prayer methods to use during Lent

Part III: What will eating less food accomplish?

Part IV: Prayer leads us into actions of love

Part V: Fasting: Letting God fill our needs so to fill others’ needs

Part VI: The unconditional love God has for all of us

Some people ask, “What will eating less food accomplish for us?” Well, first of all we are so comfortable and take so much for granted that we need something to make us think. So, by making this small sacrifice on these two days can really make us pause and to think about our friendship with Jesus. He was asked by his Father to deny himself the comfort he was having with the fellowship of his friends and to allow this ultimate sacrifice of the Passion to come to him. So, just as Jesus accepted the challenge put to him, we are asked by the church to do a form of sacrifice, to give us reason to hunger for God. We could look at it from a positive perspective and think of it as exchanging food to eat for a deeper friendship with God. By causing a physical hunger, we accept the spiritual food of faith and look inside toward God and push toward a closer relationship with Jesus, placing ourselves into his presence in a deeper way.

In the Gospel of Matthew 25:31-46 we see specific instructions from Jesus on how we are to provide people with food, clothes, housing, healing and comfort when they are in need. Jesus’ answer was that we are to feed, give clothes, a home, to help when sick or in prison and when we do this to others, we do this for Jesus. In my work as executive director, at Father Carr’s Place 2B in Oshkosh, I have been witness to the hungry, homeless, people in prison, the sick and others in need of a visit and healing. The most powerful part of my work is to witness the thousands of dollars people sacrifice for others, the thousands of hours people give as volunteers, the thousands of prayers offered for those in need and the thousands of times Jesus is served each year at our mission.

About 10 years ago, I was diagnosed as a diabetic and went through a retraining of my diet. I asked my parish priest, “Am I exempt from fasting from food during Lent?” He told me I was exempt from fasting from food. He did instruct me however, I should find another way to fast. He said I should look for another sacrifice that would not be a health risk but still give me reason to participate in the Lenten fasting. So, I did as he said and I looked for ways that I could sacrifice my time to go out of my way to do things for other people without receiving anything in return.

A few years later, I became executive director of Father Carr’s Place 2B and witnessed many fasting opportunities by living in a mission and serving the poor with my wife and nine children and hundreds of people volunteering their time to make others’ lives better. My life became more fulfilling. The fasting we do is to make a sacrifice of not just taking care for ourselves but rather an openness to bringing homeless in, feeding the hungry and providing medical and dental care to Jesus thousands of times each year.

I have been witness to the hunger, homelessness and sickness and loneliness of Christ and I have seen him served by doctors, nurses, religious sisters, priests, lay men and women and children. These men, women and children from all areas of life come to Father Carr’s Place 2B to love those that need love and to heal the wounds of those hurt deeply physically, emotionally and spiritually. This service is fasting and it is done with a smile. Just because we sacrifice for others doesn’t mean we do it with a suffering look but rather with a happy fulfilled look because we are serving Jesus and becoming closer in our relationship with him.

 Geniesse is exective director of Father Carr’s Place 2B in Oshkosh.

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