In the message of May 25, 2001, Our Lady says:
” … pray and fast that God may give you peace … “
Praying and fasting for peace was the substance of the whole life of Fr. Slavko Barbaric, a greatly loved and well know priest of Medjugorje who passed away in the year 2000. The following is an English translation of a passage from his last book: “Fast with the heart”. Fr. Slavko wrote especially on the inseparable relationship between fasting and prayer, and on the need for fasting and praying for the attainment of peace. The following is a passage from this book:
Mary is the Queen of the Prophets
All the Prophets called for conversion, fasting, and prayer as conditions for peace. Mary does not have any better, or different, means than those by which the Prophets called to peace, namely: conversion, prayer, fasting and firm faith.
In calling us to fast two days a week, Mary remains in the tradition of her Israelite nation and reminds us of the multi-century tradition of fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays in both the Eastern and the Western Church.
While the Church calls everyone to return to its roots, we must admit that we have not re-discovered fasting but, instead, we are seeing the opposite. In the past few decades, the practice of fasting has gradually declined in all generations.
The apparitions in Medjugorje have not presented anything new nor have they revealed anything unknown. Instead, they are helping us accept what God asked for through the prophets – what Mary did, and what Jesus Himself did.
In Biblical revelation, fasting is always connected with the call to prayer and conversion.
Prophets fasted before accepting their service as prophets and before special revelations. Individuals fasted in various circumstances of life – of joy, gratitude, sorrow and sinfulness. Even the entire nation fasted in preparation for certain feasts, to be saved from a catastrophe, or to come out of a catastrophe once they had fallen into it.
(Fasting and Visions: Ex 34,27-28; Dt 9,9-11; Dn 10,1-8. Lamentation of Sins: 1 Sm 7,3-6; 1 Kgs 21,20-29; Dn 9,3-5. Fasting in a Time of Sorrow: 1 Sm 31,11-13; 2 Sm 1,11-12; 1 Chr 10,11-12. Prayer and fasting for healing: 2 Sm 12,13-17. Fasting and Inner Healing in an Experience of God: 1 Kgs 19,6-13. Fasting and Danger of War: 2 Chr 20,2-4; Jdt 4,12-13; 1 Mc 3,44.47; 2 Mc 13,11-12; Jon 3,4-9. Prayer and Fasting for a Blessing and a Safe Journey: Ezr 8,21-23. Fasting after Destruction of War: Neh 1,3-4. Fasting after Returning to the True God: Neh 9,1-2. Fasting, Prayer, Almsgiving and Righteousness: Tob 12,8. Life-long Fasting out of Sorrow: Jdt 8,5-6; Lk 2,36-38. Fasting in a Situation Endeangering the poeple: Est 4,1-3.15-16,17k. Fasting in Psalms: Ps 35,13; Ps 69,11-12; Ps 109,24-25; Sir 34,26. The Meaning of Fasting – a New Relationship: Is 58,1-6; Jer 14,11-12; Zeh 7,4-5; Zeh 8,18-19. Fasting and Preparation for Listening to the Word of God: Jer 36,5-7. Responding to the Word of God with Prayer and Fasting: Bar 1,3-6. Fasting and Prayer as a Way out of a Common Sinful State: Jl 1,13-14; Jl 2,12-15; Jesus’ Fast: Mt 4,1-11. Jesus Speaks about Fasting: Mt 6,16-18; Lk 18,10-14; Mt 9,14-15; Mk 2,18-20; Lk 5,33-35. Fasting and Prayer Strengthen Faith: Mt 17,20-21. Fasting and Prayer Used Against Satan: Mk 9,25-29. Fasting and Prayer Before Being sent to Serve: Acts 13,2-3; Acts 14,21-23. St. Paul Fasts: 2 Cor 6,3-8; 2 Cor 11,25-28.)
Fasting and Peace
Peace is a fruit of the Spirit.
The deepest longing of man´s heart is for peace. In everything we do, whether good or bad, we are really seeking peace. A person who truly loves, experiences peace; even one who hates and wants revenge, is yearning for inner peace. When one struggles with addiction, whether staying sober, or fighting the addiction, he is seeking peace. When he fights for his life and the lives of those he loves, he is seeking peace. Even when he raises his own hand against himself and attempts to commit suicide, or tries to kill someone, on a deep level he is seeking peace. Therefore, every decision of man is, in its essence, a decision for seeking peace. Clearly when good is being done, personal peace, and the peace of others is being realized. On the other hand, when evil is being committed, it results in a search for one´s own peace at the expense of the peace of others.
Looking at it from yet another perspective, we can see how oftentimes we loose peace because we are being egotistical, selfish, envious, jealous, avaricious or consumed by power and pride. Experience confirms that through fasting and prayer, evil, egoism, and selfishness are overcome; the heart is opened and love and humility, generosity and goodness grow. Thus, true conditions for peace are realized through prayer and fasting. Whoever has peace because he has learned to love and forgive, also remains spiritually and physically healthy. Through fasting and prayer, human needs are diminished and brought under our control, enabling us to form a spiritually deeper relationship with God.
We stand to lose the most important benefit of fasting when it is experienced solely as a renunciation of something material, and not as a spiritual exercise that raises us to a consciousness of God. When its benefit is not recognized on the spiritual level the soul does not benefit to the extent that it can. For this reason, it is not possible to speak about replacing fasting with good works or anything else, because fasting has a holy purpose of its own and cannot be replaced with other works. In this context, we can understand why peace is always promised not only after conversion, but also after fasting and prayer so that the soul is brought even closer to God.
It is, therefore, through fasting that a person comes to understand what he must fight against the sin within himself. In this way, we experience freedom from those things that create within us restlessness and disorder. The soul becomes still and conditions for peace are realized. The following text beautifully presents an image of this battle:
“When a king wants to occupy a city of the enemy he first seizes the water source and stops every supply. When the inhabitants begin to die from hunger and thirst, they surrender to him. This is what it is like with physical cravings: when a religious comes against them with fasting and prayer, the enemies of the soul lose strength.”
Experience clearly confirms that without a battle against our own internal enemies of peace, it is not possible to come to peace. Fasting is a very tried and tested means to attain peace. It is not accidental that all of the prophets, together with Jesus and then the entire Church tradition, have called man to fasting and prayer, so that he may open himself to true peace. The problem is that man is inclined to follow the way of false prophets who promise an easy peace that actually does not exist.
Fasting and Prayer
Fasting, prayer, and good works are often mentioned together by both Jews and Christians. Prayer does not stand ahead of fasting; and good works are not independent of them, but rather, binds them together. The most complete understanding of prayer is offered in its connection with fasting, as Jesus affirms in the Bible.
One question which is often asked is “What is prayer?”. St. Therese responded in this way: “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” St. John Damascene says: “Prayer is the raising of one´s mind and heart to God, or the acquisition of goodness from God. Prayer is also seen in the traditional sense as conversation with God.
However, there is also the belief that prayer is not complete with only thoughts, conversation, and spiritual acts of charity, until it incorporates the entire body as is the case with fasting. Prayer becomes more complete when it includes the body through fasting; when fasting accompanies the words of prayer. Fasting supports prayer, making it a more complete expression that encompasses the entire person.
The unification of the body and soul in prayer are particularly manifested in fasting and prayer. The physical fast makes prayer more complete. A person who fasts prays better and a person, who prays, fasts more easily. In this way, prayer does not only remain an expression or words, but includes the entire human being. Physical fasting is an admission to God before men that one cannot do it alone and needs help. A person experiences his helplessness more easily when he fasts and that is why, by means of the physical fast, the soul is more open to God. Without fasting, our words of prayer remain without a true foundation. In the Old Testament the faithful fasted and prayed individually, in groups, and in various life situations. Because of this, they always experienced God´s help. (Cf. Ezr 8,21-23; 2 Chr 20,12) Jesus ascribes a special power to fasting and prayer, especially in the battle against evil spirits (cf. Mk 9,29). The same practice is found in the tradition of the Church and us most evident in the rules of all orders and religious communities. St. Bernard wrote about the relationship between fasting and prayer saying:
“I will tell you something that you will understand easily and that you have often experienced, if I am not mistaken: fasting gives certainty to prayer and makes it fervent… By means of prayer, strength is gained for fasting and through fasting the grace of prayer. Fasting strengthens prayer and prayer strengthens fasting and offers it to the Lord.”
This is apparent because by means of fasting one becomes more awake and open to God and to what is spiritual. For the same reason, fasting is connected to the Eucharist. While a person practices renunciation and lives for a period of time with bread, he prepares himself for a meeting with the Divine Bread. This exceptional meeting with God, especially in connection with the Eucharist, is evidence of how fasting is positive in itself and how it enables us to realize the fundamental goal of prayer – the meeting of the entire person with God, the Savior.
In our time, Gandhi is known as a man who fasted and prayed. He said: “My religion teaches me that in every affliction which cannot be alleviated, it is necessary to fast and pray.” Although it is known that Gandhi fasted and prayed with political goals in mind, he deeply believed that only God could change the heart and man´s intentions through fasting and prayer. He believed that with fasting and prayer, man is purified within and frees himself from guilt, which, at the same time, is an expression of solidarity with those who suffer.
From the few things we have discussed here, we can understand that fasting and prayer are inseparable just as man as a whole, comprised of the spirit, soul and body, is inseparable.
Cf: Fr. Slavko Barbaric: Fast with the heart, Informativni Centar „Mir” Medugorje, 2000
(You can find this book in the Souvenir Shop of the Parish office in Medjugorje)
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