Gluttony and Asceticism

Bishop Barron explained gluttony as an unreasonable or immoderate obsession over food and/or drink. He gave the typical example of how many of us are good at disciplining our physical bodies by going to the gym and keeping fit, but not as good when it comes to living a healthy spiritual life. We can spend hours at the gym doing monotonous exercise, but not apply similar discipline required to live an ascetic lifestyle. We are called to asceticism to discipline our appetites and become spiritually healthier by opening our lives to God. Have you ever tried an ascetic practice such as fasting? What were the benefits you gained?

Our first discussion question asked for the similarities and/or differences between Jesus’ temptation in the dessert after forty days of fasting and Adam and Eve’s temptation by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Jesus was able to tame His earthly desires and sustained Himself with “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” His response to the devil was the opposite of Adam and Eve’s. They saw what was good, and ate of it. From Jesus’ resistance to the devil’s temptations, we learn that we can fight temptation by remaining close to the Word of God and all its manifestations, especially in the Eucharist.

We read how, in Matthew 11:16-19, Jesus was accused of being “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” because he came eating and drinking. Jesus’ enemies harshly judged Him by exaggerating his appreciation of food and drink. Jesus saw food and drink as good because they were created by God to satisfy our needs. Gluttony is disordered appetite, while Jesus saw enjoyment of food and drink in moderation as a natural, well-ordered appetite.

Matthew 6:16-21 gives us a guide on the proper attitude to fasting how we should store up our treasures in heaven and not on earth. Jesus points out how hypocrites fast to gain public approval among men and not by God. We shouldn’t make it obvious when we fast because the reward (treasure in heaven) will come from “your Father who see[s] you in secret.” Fasting and prayer are practices that will direct our desires to things of God, not to things of the earth.

To add to Matthew 6:16-21, Isaiah 58 highlights the type of fast that’s pleasing to God: “to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the throngs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke … to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh.” God does not want fasting to be done for the sake of fasting, rather He wants it to be done so that we may be a better conduit of His love, denying ourselves so that we can see and address the needs of others.

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