Fasting is on the one hand an ascetical practice, that is, a discipline of self-denial that helps us to remember that our humanity is more than a series of bodily demands and functions. We distance ourselves from the normal demands of this aspect of our bodily experience as a means of joining the church in penance, thereby renewing our spirits.
But fasting is also a deeply humane gesture, for its practice helps to form solidarity with those who experience bodily hunger without the means or resources to regularly fulfill that hunger. By allowing ourselves to feel the pain of hunger, we experience the plight of those who suffer hunger, famine, and homelessness in our own communities and throughout the world. From this experience, we can develop a more meaningful commitment to share generously of our resources with those who do not have enough.
Abstinence is an aspect of fasting, more limited in scope that offers us the opportunity to practice this discipline each Friday during Lent. In all the Lenten disciplines, we join with the church throughout the world in a practice that unifies us in worship, repentance, and conversion.
Finally, do not forget, Sundays are the Feast Days of the Lord, even during Lent! That is why the 40 days of Lent do not count Sundays, for Sundays are the Lord’s Day, even during Lent.
So communal and private Lenten practices may be suspended in celebration of the Lord’s Day on Sundays during Lent.
The universal Lenten regulations of the Church are:
1) Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.