By David Gibson | Catholic News Service

Fasting is a paradox for Christians. It encompasses seemingly contradictory intentions.

First, fasting appears to possess a negative quality. It asks us to do less of something — to eat less, to reduce the amount of our TV viewing or curtail our spending and the time devoted to shopping, for example.

When this effort does not prove easy, fasting sometimes becomes a singular focus of attention as one tries and tries to succeed in its outward goal.

Yet, the goal of fasting is positive. It aims to shift attention away from something we relish and onto areas of life that deserve to be relished far more. It is coupled with penance and, in particular, conversion to a new way of life.

So fasting is confusing. Maybe Christians need to ask again and again, “Why do we fast?”

When it seems that fasting is all about some form of deprivation and only about that, something is amiss. But what is the “other side” of fasting?

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