So many of us have heard the term "fasting" at one time or another, as mentioned in biblical times throughout scripture. It is a practice that has become quite unpopular in our day because we find it unthinkable that we should voluntarily abstain from something that remains so easily accessible to us, (chocolate, alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, meat - to name a few of the top choices).
More and more over the past few years, however, the pastor at my church has been working to coax parish members into abstaining from those things that hinder our sanctification, i.e. gossip, impure talk, wasting time on the computer, watching television, etc. His homilitic segway into Lent has been more about simplifying our lives so that Jesus is allowed greater access, versus trading out one habit for another - I'll give up coffee, but I'll just eat more chocolate :(
Now, I am not belittling those beautiful sacrifices of the material things we are attached to - as there is certainly great good in denying ourselves those things which we use to pamper ourselves or bring temporary enjoyment.
I have found, however, that abstaining from uncharitable actions or wasting time seems so much more 'spiritually edifying' than choosing a particular material thing, as it helps me to be more faithful to good habits, and remain painfully aware of the bad ones. The Lord seems to delight in this as well, as He continues to counsel me throughout Lent regarding the action I felt called to give up from.
This Lent I felt led to abstain from saying ANYTHING negative about anyone - completely. Yes, yes, it has certainly been much more enlightening an exercise than I would have imagined - pulling back a very revealing curtain on a sin that is more prevelent than I realized. Back to confession I go, only this time it is with a new zeal to speak more lovingly about every soul at all times. When I do fall again, and I will, I know God will be there to help me back up and pour out His precious grace of healing and forgiveness - upon me and those who I have sinned against. It becomes a powerful lesson in humility, and a whole new awareness of how the tongue can do more damage than the sword...
My dear friend sent me a powerful journal entry that he received in prayer during the first week in Lent. I was so moved by the Lord's words to him that I asked for his permission to use it as a springboard for my blog entry. Here is the writing that he journaled in his silent prayer time three weeks ago. He began his prayer time with this powerful scripture passage:
“The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.” (Mark 2:20)
Then my friend prayed, "Lord, you have talked of prayer and fasting. What is Your will in this?"
"Fasting was not what I willed for my children. It was my plan for all my children to have plenty, an overwhelming bounty of good things. Fasting is what you will give in sacrifice, not so that I would have more and you less, but that you recognize others who are suffering. Fasting is a means of teaching yourself the discipline of obedience; to do that which your will objects to for the love of others. Fasting helps to form in you a humble and contrite heart to which I can glory in. I love a humble heart. Take time to search for reasons to fast, areas which promote humility; things which lead to better prayer… to more prayer. Look to the Spirit, not tell you to impose a fast, but to help you recognize it yourself. Then enter into it and it will bear much fruit. Giving up a thing and waiting and hoping to “make it” till Easter is not fruitful. It is not giving, it is loaning, because you expect to be given it back." Jesus
My most beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, let us turn to the Lord with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind, and all of our strength - asking His will in our cotinued journey through this sacred time of Lent.