I'm on a slightly more rigorous fasting regimen this Lent, which means I spend more time hungry (and trying not to think about it.) But I'm also noticing some interesting things which have got me thinking. I've been doing one-day fasts for so long that I hardly notice them. But when you go longer, your system starts to respond in interesting ways.
This manifests itself in many ways, but the most noticeable is general restlessness. Your conscious is aware that you're fasting, but your body just knows it isn't getting what it's used to. You might try all kinds of distractions: working on a project, tuning a presentation, taking the dog for a walk, resting a bit, drinking some juice, or whatever. But no matter what you try, it never works for long because it isn't addressing what you're really lacking: food. The work doesn't engage and the exercise doesn't satisfy like usual and you can't relax because none of that is what you really need. You need a meal, which you aren't going to get until your fast ends. But knowing that doesn't convince your body, so it won't let you settle for anything else, at least not for long.
That got me reflecting about spiritual hunger. Our spiritual “metabolism” is less obvious than our physical one, and its needs can be harder to discern, but it nonetheless needs feeding. It certainly needs to feed on the Truth, and worship of God, and proper orientation (i.e. toward something other than the Imperial Self). God Himself even went so far as to become food to feed this spiritual hunger.
But what if we didn't know about this hunger, or had bought into lies about it? What if we were convinced that there was no such thing as spiritual hunger, or that some lesser substitute would do? We'd probably find ourselves in the same state I am well into my fast: trying this and that and the other thing as distractions, attempting to fill the void. The difference would be that when I'm fasting, I know what I'm lacking and what it will ultimately take to resolve things. A man who was spiritually hungry but wasn't aware of what he was hungry for would be in worse shape. He would keep trying distractions and inadequate substitutes, never getting what he really needed because he didn't know what it would take.
In other words, he'd be much like our Western culture: awash in entertainment and utopian politics and business and just about anything else, trying to fill the spiritual void with whatever we can find.
Maybe that's why the New Evangelization is so important. Maybe we as Christians need to be more sensitive to spiritual hunger, and not try to mask it or divert ourselves with lesser things. Maybe we need to go to the True Source to be truly filled, which will enable us to feed those around us with the Bread of Life.
Interestingly, as I was preparing this, I noticed this post by Msgr. Charles Pope along very similar lines.