I grew up thinking Lent was a time for giving up chocolate or television or music – something I liked. Most of us were probably taught the same thing. But as I got older and came to understand the faith more, I saw that the idea of fasting did not always require a literal interpretation of the word.
When we fast, we refrain from something that gives us pleasure. The idea is that through sacrifice, we show our reverence for the ultimate sacrifice that The Christ made for us. The 40 days of sacrifice signify the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert.
In light of his enduring a public crucifixion, our offer to give up chocolate for 40 days seems a meager effort. But we still do it because this is part of what we are called to do.
Many of us add to our decidedly meager sacrifice by increasing our prayer time and by donating more. One of the phrases I often hear during Lent is “fast, pray, give,” which encompasses the ways in which we can more closely live out the idea of The Christ. Many of us have a rice bowl or some way of collecting money for each day during Lent. And many more of us add additional prayers to our daily routines. All of these things are wonderful gestures and I wouldn’t suggest changing any of them. What I would like, though, is to bring a different perspective to the thought behind the gestures.
During one of my many retreats, I learned of a new way to approach Lent that I’d like to share. I found it immensely helpful in a number of ways. The main thing I learned was that sacrifice does not always need to be a hardship we must endure; it can be a simple shift in our approach.
The opposite of fasting, of course, is feasting. We feast, traditionally, today, on Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday), before our period of fasting. But what if we embraced the idea that Lent can be a time for both fasting and feasting? We can fast from one thing — rather than an object of pleasure, perhaps a behavior, impulse, or thought pattern — and simultaneously feast on the opposing thing.
Here are some suggestions for ways in which we could experience that shift, things we could simultaneously fast from and feast on this Lenten season:
- Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling within them
- Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of all life
- Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light
- Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God
- Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify
- Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude
- Fast from anger; feast on patience
- Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism
- Fast from worry; feast on divine order
- Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation
- Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives
- Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer
- Fast from hostility; feast on non-resistance
- Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness
- Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others
- Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal Truth
- Fast from discouragement; feast on hope
- Fast from facts that depress; feast on truths that uplift
- Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm
- Fast from suspicion; feast on truth
- Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire
- Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity
- Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence
- Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that undergirds
I don’t know about you, but I love some of these suggestions. Single Catholic life can be difficult, and we owe it to ourselves to make every effort to live healthy, happy, hopeful lives. I think these steps will help you do that.
Essentially, in carrying out some of these fasts/feasts, we become more fully engaged in embodying the life of The Christ in the desert. And this, to me, seems in line with the idea of Lent as preparation for the death and resurrection that so defines our faith, far more than giving up chocolate or watching TV.
So in the spirit of trying something new this season, I’m going to work towards living out some of these ideas. It’s said that a new habit can be formed in just 21 days; I’m grateful that the season of Lent could allow me more than enough time to begin a new habit that allows me to live in a more Christ-like manner. I hope that if you try some of the suggestions on this list, that you too could emulate the ideals that define our faith.
Leave me a comment and let me know what you feel called to fast from and feast on this Lent.
Michelle-629774’s reflection “Let Us Fast From Comparisons” is one of the 40 beautiful reflections written by CatholicMatch members and published in our brand new book, The Catholic Playbook: Lenten Reflections for Singles. Order a copy here.