Want to be a saint? Then spend time fasting and exercising. Don’t neglect these two integral parts of a wholesome asceticism.
At first, these things may seem to be quite separate from each other, but they are not. We need to recognize that a holistic asceticism is the pathway to greater intimacy with Jesus Christ and ultimately happiness.
In this context, fasting helps us to grow in self-control and helps undo unnecessary attachments to food and pleasure. Thus, as we allow ourselves to suffer the deprivation of food in a limited and balanced way, we teach ourselves to practice patience in the midst of intentional discomfort.
Of course, discovering how much fasting one should do involves an on-going path of discernment in which a person makes decisions in concert with good spiritual guides and family members. Remember, holiness is tied to communion which is that bond of intimacy formed between us through Jesus Christ. If a decision we make is leading to a break-down in that communion, then we are the ones who need to change.
In a similar way, exercise helps us to still our mind and body so as to be available to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Tensions and weaknesses in our physical constitution can really limit our potential both in our daily life and in our relationship with Jesus Christ. By means of stretching, strengthening, and building endurance, we are able to release tensions in the body in such a way that allows greater freedom.
Thus, the whole idea of a new asceticism is to realize that we need to train our thinking and our bodies so that they can conform to the inner workings of grace. Everything we do must lead us from visible to invisible realities, from limited ways of thinking and believing to a very participation in the creativity of God.
Today, let us train our bodies and mind for this incredible work.