- Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert after His Baptism by John in the Jordan;
- we imitate Him when we observe Lent for 40 days;
- fasting is hard;
- we may face some temptations when we fast but that doesn't mean we shouldn't fast;
- we can only fast through God's grace; we cannot rely solely on our will and human effort
- the example of Jesus and God's promises to protect us from sin and death should comfort us.
"And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungered." Matt. 4:2.
Distinguishing between Our Lord's Fast in the Desert and our Lenten penitence, which includes fasting, Newman begins the sermon, emphasizing that Love must inspire our fasting and penitence:THE season of humiliation which precedes Easter lasts for forty days in memory of our Lord's long fast in the wilderness. . . . We fast by way of penitence, and in order to subdue the flesh. Our Saviour had no need of fasting for either purpose. His fasting was unlike ours, as in its intensity, so in its object. And yet when we begin to fast, His pattern is set before us; and we continue the time of fasting till in number of days we have equaled His.
There is a reason for this: we must do nothing except with Him in our eye. As He it is, through whom alone we have the power to do any good thing, so unless we do it for Him it is not good. From Him our obedience comes, towards Him it must look. He says, "Without Me ye can do nothing." [John 15:5.] No work is good without grace and without love. . . .
Even in our penitential exercises, Christ has gone before us to sanctify them to us. He has blessed fasting as a means of grace, in that He has fasted; and fasting is only acceptable when it is done for His sake. Penitence is mere formality, or mere remorse, unless done in love. If we fast without uniting ourselves in heart to Christ, imitating Him, and praying that He would make our fasting His own, would associate it with His own, and communicate to it the virtue of His own . . . [then] we beat the air and humble ourselves in vain.
Image Credit (public domain): The Temptation of Saint Anthony, 1487–88, by the young Michelangelo, copying Martin Schongauer's engraving