Fasting must accompany our prayer. Why? Because Fasting helps subject our bodies to our spirits (1 Cor 9:27), because fasting disciplines the body, mind, and spirit (Prov. 25:28), because fasting subordinates our flesh with its desires to the desires of the Spirit (Gal 5:17), because fasting helps us to set priorities in our lives. (Mt 6:33) and because fasting is really longing after God. (Ps 63:1-2). The power of fasting is a mystery. Which is probably why those who deem themselves "intelligent," "reasonable" and "rational" cannot understand its importance. But whether such people accept it or not, fasting breaks demonic strongholds and demonic attacks and helps us to walk in the spirit rather than the flesh, to sow to the Spirit, not to the sinful nature.
Before the practice of daily Mass, people were encouraged to fast for 24 hours before Mass. My mother and father often spoke of how their families observed this day-long fast as they were growing up. Pope Pius XII changed the rules in an effort to encourage daily Mass participation. In his Motu Propio Sacram Communionem (March 19, 1957), the Holy Father said that, "Priests and faithful, before Holy Mass or Holy Communion respectively, must abstain for three hours from solid foods..." But how many actually do attend daily Mass? Or even Sunday Mass for that matter? Many Catholics attend Mass when they feel like it. Some only at Christmas and Easter. And now the Eucharistic fast is down to one hour before Holy Communion. How many fail to observe this one hour fast?
This is a real tragedy not only because fasting strengthens us spiritually, but because we must make a good faith effort to prepare ourselves properly to receive the Lord Jesus, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Canon 919 of the Code of Canon Law states that, "One who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion."
It is easy to think that since the Church has lessened the time of the Eucharistic fast, it is not a serious matter after all. But as Dr. Germain Grisez has noted, "Traditionally, the Eucharistic fast, required by the Church for the sake of reverence, was considered a grave responsibility which did not admit parvity. Now, since the requirement is more easily fulfilled, its violation is even harder to excuse...Someone who deliberately disregards the Eucharistic fast out of irreverence for Jesus or contempt for the Church's law plainly is guilty of grave sin. And, knowing that the fast has been broken, whether by accident or on purpose, in a significant way, anyone as reverent and obedient as he or she should be, will not receive Holy Communion, except for a reason sufficient to justify an exception to the Church's law.."
Because of a lack of sound catechesis, many of the faithful no longer approach the Eucharist - the Holy of Holies - with the reverence required. In Dominicae Cenae, Pope John Paul II addressed the problem of those who are not properly disposed to receive Holy Communion. The Holy Father wrote, "In fact, what one finds most often is not so much a feeling of unworthiness as a certain lack of interior willingness, if one may use this expression, a lack of Eucharistic 'hunger' and 'thirst,' which is also a sign of lack of adequate sensitivity towards the great sacrament of love and a lack of understanding of its nature.."
Perhaps we should return to the three hour fast? Or a longer one?