By Brian Krushel – Trinity Shared Ministry
The Christian Church finds itself presently in the season of Lent (which began Feb. 14).
Lent is the 40 days immediately prior to Easter (excluding Sundays) and has traditionally been a time when Christians recommit themselves to three main spiritual disciplines: prayer, fasting and almsgiving or acts of charity.
Prayer and doing good deeds are relatively easy things to promise ourselves that we will do more often.
It’s fasting that often gets the most push back.
Fasting is the origin of the practice that many of us most closely associate with Lent, the act of “giving up” something for Lent.
I was always given the impression that it had to be something that would be difficult for me to give up, something that I would miss, something which would make me “suffer”.
To be honest, it seemed more like a friendly challenge than anything else, a way of testing my resolve more than it tested my faith.
Especially in the West, our culture is not generally one of abstinence, it is more of one of indulgence and often over-indulgence.
There has been a trend lately to re-think fasting during Lent, to move it away from being all about the giving up of something and instead make it about taking something on, less about giving up something less beneficial and taking on something more beneficial.
It seems to me that this is a concession to a culture that is adverse to restriction and limitation and restraint.
We don’t like being told that we can’t do something or can’t have something.
We are the masters of our own destiny and we are in control of our own life and path.
No one or no rule or discipline will tell us what we can and cannot do.
Rules are meant to be broken, limits are meant to be exceeded.
So instead of giving something up, we take more on, instead of going with less, we go more, instead of simplifying, we complicate.
But what if we got back to fasting in its original sense, as the willful giving up of something? And what if we adjusted our attitude towards fasting so that we think of less as more in terms of it being more beneficial?
I recently came across a quote from Pope Francis that really resonated with me and it began by asking the question, “Do you want to fast this Lent?”
It continues with several suggestions for how we might do that.
“Fast from hurting words and say kind words. Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude. Fast from anger and be filled with patience. Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.”
The quote continues with several more suggestions, and if you would like to read more, a quick Google search will satisfy your curiosity.
The point is, fasting isn’t about complicating our lives, it’s about simplifying them and by simplifying them, making life better.
It’s about believing that less really is more – more easy, more beneficial, more loving and compassionate, more of what is helpful to us, to our neighbour and to the world.
Lent is a wonderful reminder to us of that.
But we don’t need to wait for Lent each year to do these things (or do them for only forty days a year), this can be our year round discipline.
And Lent can be a good time to get a fresh start and wipe the slate clean, to simplify our lives so that we might have more of it.