Compassion as a byproduct of Fasting

Morning Prayer:
February 12, 2018
Prayer by Fr. Rowland, S.M., President

Lent begins this Ash Wednesday. To help get ourselves in the proper frame of mind, I want to quote Rabbi Allen S. Maller, the rabbi emeritus of Temple Akiba in Culver City, CA. He makes the following observation about fasting. “All animals eat, but only humans choose not to eat some foods that are both nutritious and tasty…During Lent, Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays and fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. As a general prohibition all year long, Hindus do not eat beef; Jews and Muslims do not eat pork. And on Yon Kippur – the Day of Atonement – Jews do not eat or drink at all for 24 hours. Every year for the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from first light until sundown, abstaining from food, drink and marital relations…What do the religious practices of abstinence and fasting teach us? What spiritual benefits occur when we fast?”[1]

Rabbi Maller answers the question by observing that “Fasting produces many different outcomes. Most importantly; fasting teaches compassion. It is easy to talk about the world’s problem of hunger and to feel sorry that millions of people go to bed hungry each day. But not until one feels hunger in one’s own body is there real impact: empathy is much stronger than pity. Fasting has moral value if compassion toward others has been extended in the process. As the prophet Isaiah wrote, ‘The kind of fasting I want is this: remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor’ ” (Is 58: 6-7).[2]

During each week of Lent this year at Marist, we will focus on a specific theme that will stress our solidarity with the poorest of the poor: refugees and migrants. They have no country to call home and no such basic things such as food, water, clothing, shelter and few advocates among those in power who feel their anguish and are moved to relieve their suffering. If you and I are not moved to act; then, who will?

Let us pray,

God of all compassion and Father of all goodness: to heal the wounds our sins and selfishness bring upon us you bid us turn to fasting, prayer and sharing with our brothers and sisters. We acknowledge our sinfulness, our guilt is ever before us; when our weakness causes discouragement, let your compassion fill us with hope and lead us through a Lent of repentance to the beauty of Easter joy.[3]



[1] Maller, Rabbi Allen S., “Feed Your Spirit,” America Magazine, February 15, 2010, page 16.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Opening Prayer: Third Sunday of Lent.

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