As we come of age, usually in our late teens and into our 20s, I think nearly everyone begins to think about how they would change the world if only they were in charge. Even if you aren’t inclined to want to “rule the world,” you certainly dream of being some part of a positive change. You want to make a difference with your life. Maybe you don’t want to rule the world exactly—but you certainly want it to “be better.”
That is the driving force (generally speaking) behind many protests and much of the angst that people feel now. We all just want things to be better. Most people believe change isn’t happening fast enough and, in some ways, they are absolutely correct. We KNOW the world can and should be better. The overwhelming majority of us, however, don’t have any real power, not by ourselves. There is power in numbers, but most of us don’t have the time to organize a large group of people to demand change.
What are we to do?
Well, there is a tried-and-true formula for changing the world. Heck, it’s even been known to change the hearts and minds of individual people (see the example of St. Monica). It’s a three-step process and I truly believe—no, I know—that until or unless we start applying this formula on a consistent, daily basis, nothing will truly change.
Are you ready? Here it is: Repent, Pray, and Fast.
I may have just lost half the people reading this little article. Oh well. The rest of us need to step up our game—big time.
If you are still reading, thank you. Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts.
Step One: Repent
We are sinners, every single one of us. Maybe you recognize this fact about yourself, maybe you haven’t yet. It scares the daylights out of me when I think about it. How in the world is a guy like me ever going to get to heaven? Ah yes, there is a path: By the grace of God, thanks to our Savior, His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
If you have never been baptized, it is time. Join the family. Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Repent of your sins and receive His Grace.
If you have been baptized, there is no better time than now to get to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and experience the mercy and forgiveness of Our Lord. No, He did not make a mistake when we were Baptized. Rather, you and I continue to experience the effects of Original Sin. The Lord knew this fact about us before He was ever nailed to the Cross. That is why He gave the Apostles (and their successors) the power to bind and loose. Granted, this topic can get deep but suffice it to say that His Mercy is available to all of us; all we need to do is ask Him.
But repentance doesn’t stop there; we must make a firm commitment to change our sinful ways. We must put on the armor of Christ and do our best to “become holy, as your Father is holy.” That universal call to holiness is not some nice quote to use in a sermon. No, it’s a commandment directly from Our Lord to each of us. Yes, we feel sorry for our sins and we confess them but the really hard part for me is to actually change my ways.
Step Two: Pray
Let’s get something straight right off the bat: There is no right way or wrong way to pray. Jesus gave us the formula in the Our Father. There are countless other options. I am going to advocate one way below, but if you want to really jumpstart your prayer life, I would highly suggest that you head over to https://matthewsleonard.com/ and sign up to receive his free guide called (appropriately enough): “8 Ways To Jumpstart Your Prayer Life.”
Personally, I find no better way to pray every day than to say a Rosary. Granted, if you aren’t familiar with this form of meditative prayer, you may find it intimidating. As with any spiritual (or even temporal) practice, all it takes is some dedication and, well, practice.
I was personally intimidated by the Rosary when I started, particularly the prayers at the beginning and ending of each Rosary. However, persistence always pays off and I find spending time in meditation with the Blessed Mother the most peaceful and encouraging thing I do every day.
Thanks to the Holy Family School of Faith, I receive a new meditation every day. I contemplate the lives of the saints, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, the virtues, the life of Jesus, the lives of the Apostles, and all of the beauty and goodness of Christianity.
Besides, Our Lady has implored us time and time again in her appearances to pray the Rosary. If the first disciple of Christ is telling me to do something, you can make bank that I am going to do it. Of course, that wasn’t always the case but that is a story for another time…
Step Three: Fast
While we may want to stop after the first two steps, it is extremely important to add this final action that makes all the difference.
Abstaining from food isn’t easy and it is not something to be taken lightly, especially in our current culture. It’s also not a practice that we can just jump into with both feet. Just like praying the Rosary, it will take practice and commitment. We will need to start slow and build upon a solid foundation. But the benefits to us and our world will be tremendous.
Yeah, that’s great and all, but why should I fast? Does God really care if I skip a meal?
Fasting is a common practice in the Bible. There are several instances in the Old Testament, but of keen importance is the account in Ezra 9:21-23. Meanwhile, Jesus himself fasted for 40 days and 40 nights as He prepared for His ministry (Matthew 4:1-11). The prophetess Anna expressed her love and worship of God through fasting (Luke 2:37). Finally, some versions of Mark 9:29 add the word ‘fasting’ to the end of that verse: “He said to them, ‘This kind [of demon] can only come out through prayer and fasting.’”
Still, some dispute that fasting is even necessary. But if it weren’t needed, why would Jesus tell us how to act when we do fast? Take Matthew 6:16-18: “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”
Again, why would Jesus give us these instructions if He didn’t expect us to fast?
When done correctly, what does fasting do? It strengthens our prayer. It humbles us. It helps us overcome temptation. It’s also a way to express grief, just as King David did on several occasions. Fasting helps us grow closer to God and increase our own self-control. And lastly, fasting is a very tangible way to demonstrate our love of God…and the Incarnate Word is all about real things, things we can touch, taste, see, and feel.
If your medical condition prevents you from fasting in any big way, don’t despair. There are plenty of other ways to offer sacrifice through fasting. If you like to have wine with your dinner each night, purposely and consciously skip alcohol and offer it up. Is dessert a regular part of your routine? Skip it one day and offer it up. Does social media have your attention every day? Log off all the platforms, stay away and offer it up.
Given the current state of our world and our Church, I personally need to step up my own game. Maybe you do as well. The problems that we face now are not merely temporal in nature. We are in the middle of a gigantic spiritual battle. Demons of all kinds are assaulting us and our loved ones. We know that the Gates of Hell will not prevail but to be part of that winning team, we must employ the weapons the Lord has given us: Repentance, Prayer, and Fasting.
We aren’t going to change the world with Facebook posts, TikTok videos, Twitter, or Instagram posts. All those things can be used for good…but they aren’t The Way, The Truth, and The Life that we all desire. At Fatima, Our Mother implored us to pray the Rosary daily and to make of everything we could a sacrifice for our own souls and the souls of others. Now is the time.