My first “pre-Lent” bulletin letter published last week was probably not read by many of you due to the “super blizzard” that shut down travel last weekend.
You can find it published however on the parish website in the “Pastor’s blog” entitled “Septuagesima Sunday.”
This week, “Sexagesima Sunday”, roughly sixty days before Easter, I would like to treat of the second of the three traditional Lenten practices: Fasting.
“Fasting” is usually defined as the voluntary or involuntary deprivation of food and/or drink for a given period of time. I would suppose many of us have experienced medical fasting, e.g., before a blood test, or a procedure. For others, fasting takes the form of the “diet” for weight loss or other health benefits.
Again, most of us practice fasting in Lent in the form of “giving something up” for Lent; usually some little treat, or perhaps alcohol, tobacco, or snacking.
There is no doubt that this voluntary deprivation of accustomed eating or drinking is an ancient practice in both the Old and the New Testaments.
There are those too who in our history have practiced bodily mortification and self-deprivation as a means of doing penance for sins, theirs and those of others. Sins of the flesh, gluttony, lust, are often counteracted by a healthy mastery of the self-shown in moderation, and a reasonable abstemiousness in food, drink, and entertainment.
Fasting and bodily self-denial have long been seen in the Christian tradition as a means of overcoming our innate love of comfort, ease, and “fullness” in whatever form that takes. While rooted in our legitimate need for food, and the comfort that a decent way of life can afford, there is always the lurking danger of the vice of gluttony and the loss of self-control and dignity that gluttony can cause in a human being. Back in the 13th century, the great Saint Dominic remarked of our passions and cravings that we are “either the hammer or the anvil, and better by far to be the hammer!”. In this way, we demonstrate to ourselves and to our Creator that the good things of the earth are our servants and not our masters. We own our possessions; they don’t own us.
As we prepare our Lent let me make a few suggestions in this area:
Be humble enough to make just one easily-doable act of fasting.
Be specific and definite as to what it will be.
Do not let your moderation or fasting be obvious and do not let it make others self-conscious.
Is it food or drink only I need to fast from?
Maybe time sent on the internet, hobbies, etc. would be better spent in some extra prayers or acts of charity?
Whatever it is, let it be something that makes me aware of my hunger and thirst for things eternal, aware of my own over-dependence on comfort and ease, and of the needs of others.