US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Day 18: Mohandas Gandhi

Fasting should never be undertaken for a selfish purpose but for the benefit of others only.

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Mohandas Gandhi: Fasting and the voice of God
Fasting for the sake of unfoldment of the spirit is a discipline I hold to be absolutely necessary at some stage or other in the evolution of an individual. Crucifixion of the flesh is a meaningless term unless one goes voluntarily through the pangs of hunger. For one thing, identification with the starving poor is a meaningless term without the experience behind it....

Fasting should be inspired by perfect truth and perfect nonviolence. The call for it should come from within, and it should be imitative. It should never be undertaken for a selfish purpose but for the benefit of others only. A fast is out of the question in a case where there is hatred for anybody.

But what is the inner voice? Is everybody capable of hearing it? These are big questions. The inner voice is there in every one of us, but one whose ears are not open for it cannot hear it, just as a deaf person is unable to hear the sweetest of songs. Self-restraint is essential in order to make our ears fit to hear the voice of God. (Mohandas Gandhi: Essential Writings, Orbis)

Reflection questions

1. What does “fasting” mean to you?

2. Is fasting a tool that leads you to work for justice? Or does it alleviate distractions so you can better hear the voice of God?

3. Think about your Lenten practices, whether fasting, abstaining from meat on Fridays, giving up social media, or even dedicating yourself to this daily Lenten reflection. Why do you make these commitments every Lent? Whose benefit are they for?

Gandhi (1869–1948), a Hindu, popularized the use of religious nonviolence for political change as a leader for Indian independence.