Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus prescribes the essential disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Let’s focus on fasting and almsgiving.
The appetites for food and drink are so pressing, so elemental, that, unless they are quelled and disciplined, they will simply take over the soul. They are like children who clamor constantly for attention and who, if indulged, will in short order run the house.
Therefore, if the passion for God is to be awakened, the more immediately pressing desires must be muted, and this is the purpose of fasting. We go hungry and thirsty so that the deepest hunger and thirst might be felt. In a way, fasting is like the “calming of the monkey mind” effected by the Rosary: both are means of settling the superficial mind that darts from preoccupation to preoccupation.
But food and drink are not the only objects of concupiscent desire. Material things and wealth are also ready substitutes for the passion for God. Thus, a kind of fasting from what money can buy is an important practice. How often Jesus recommends that his disciples give to the poor, and how often throughout the Christian tradition has almsgiving been emphasized.