As we embark upon this annual journey of fasting, I look at my world in turmoil, my life in turmoil, my heart in turmoil, and I remember that this month is about much more than fasting from food and drink. What meaning does this empty stomach or parched throat have if I am not fasting from the many roadblocks that keep me from God and from living a God-centered life? I must fast from my own impatience, from my own anger, from my persistent habit to complain and find displeasure with God’s decree, from my tendency to promise too much and do too little, from my capacity to do harm in speech and deed and inaction, from my covetous cravings and glances, from my tendency to think ill of others, from my preoccupation with putting down and judging others, from my mental attachments to ego and my mental prostrations before the monuments of self-image, from my constant failure to listen fully to the concerns and sufferings of others, from my arrogant refusal to receive criticism, from my failures to forgive.
Beyond abandoning destructive habits of mind and body, I remember that this month must also be about fasting for things: fasting for spiritual renewal and self-transformation; fasting for justice and world transformation; fasting for integration, wholeness, and peace within myself, my family, my community, my country, my world; fasting for dignity for each and every human being, created as each one is in the image of God and animated as each one is by the living breath of the Almighty.
If this is not what it means to fast for God’s good pleasure, what benefit is there in being hungry and thirsty?
Ramadan, then, is an annual recognition that all is not as it should be. It is also a powerful affirmation that that there is hope, with God’s help and blessings, for change, for a new life, a better life, a restored life in the light of God’s most beautiful qualities, which each of us has been given the capacity to reflect in some small, imperfect, yet beautiful way. This is why we break from the patterns of everyday life and embrace the hunger and thirst as metaphors for and reminders of the hunger for higher things and the thirst for the justice and peace and wholeness to which God is always calling us.
May God accept and bless our fasting, in whatever form it takes, and may God guide us by the Divine lights of Patience and Mercy and Justice and Wisdom and Peace and Forgiveness to a better place, a place of liberation and healing, a place of compassion and restoration, a place where we all, in the company of the entire creation, flourish in God’s presence.
Timothy J. Gianotti, Ph.D.
IISF Founder, Director, Principal Teacher