Lent is a time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The first few weeks of Lent were full of Scriptural references to these three pillars. Many Lenten songs include verses about them. But do we really make an effort to incorporate them into our own personal Lenten journey with our Lord? I would particularly like to consider fasting.
Although the Church only requires that we fast on Ash Wednesday and Holy Friday, it is a good practice throughout all of Lent. Perhaps it is not often done because we don't understand why it is so important. And when people do fast, it can be misconstrued as a way to lose weight or diet. So what is fasting for God? Fasting done for God helps us realize our own poverty. When I physically deny myself something good, namely food, I realize how weak I am. This should draw me not more into myself, but into prayer, communion with God. I am able to see myself more as I truly am before Him, a hungry beggar, in need of His love. It helps us to face our fears, our fear of hunger, our fear of missing out on some treat or experience. We can face these fears with God and realize, that with Him we can do all things. As we do this our trust in Him will increase.
Fasting can also be more than abstaining from food, it can be fasting from complaining, negative thoughts, from watching T.V., or any number of things that can draw us away from God. However, in this "giving up" this sacrifice we make for God, there also needs to be something to fill us. We fast and experience hunger-- a physical hunger from not eating and spiritual hunger as we realize our emptiness. Then, in that hunger, we need to be filled. This is where almsgiving and prayer find their proper place. We fill our hunger with intimacy with God (prayer) and goodness and merciful acts towards others (almsgiving).Remember, no matter how your Lent has begun, it is never too late to start anew in your resolutions. As St. Francis would say, "Let us begin again, for up to now we have done very little or nothing!"
- Sister M. Annuntiata, FSGM