Creating 'Gaps' For God

by Father Chris Goodwin

I had just finished meeting with a person in the front parlor, and I was carrying the tray that had been left for us back up to the kitchen. On the tray were two water glasses and a dish full of chocolate candies. Boy, did those candies look good! I was quite hungry, and I would have enjoyed munching a few of them; but today I was fasting from sweets.

The thought occurred to me: there is nothing sinful about eating a few sweets. But then, fasting is about more than avoiding sin. I didn’t promise myself and God that I would fast from sweets once a week because I think that eating sweets is such a bad thing. I promised to do this fast for a more positive reason: there is still redemption to be done; and there is more that I can do to take part in it. There is something that I can freely offer. I can choose to select certain enjoyments in my life, and freely, positively, offer those enjoyments to God as an oblation. My “no” to sweets is a “yes” to the higher purpose of God’s kingdom.

And yes, the fasting has benefits for me. In fact, it is nothing to God in itself: if he didn’t need the bulls and incense that were offered at the temple, then he certainly doesn’t need a handful of chocolate-covered almonds from me. But by giving up something that would give me pleasure and comfort, it “forces” me, in a way—it at least invites me—to “fill the gap”. Now, I could fill the gap left by sweets with something equally low in worth. Or, I could fill the gap with something worth more: like prayer, or charity (or writing).

I guess in a world where the mass production and massive availability of so many things that please our senses has left us without a lot of “gaps”, fasting is a way to create gaps in our lives—good gaps, because they are gaps that we can fill with the things of God: prayer and charity. The present offering that I have made to God—a small reflection on the meaning of fasting—may be the spiritual equivalent of a handful of chocolate-covered almonds. But had I eaten that handful, I never would have made the reflection. And even small works of the spirit can give more life than works of the flesh.