Fasting: How less is more
Lent is a time for preparation before the Passion and Resurrection, similar to our preparation of Advent before Christmas. Whereas Advent is a season of jubilant expectation, Lent takes on a more somber preparation as we ready ourselves to follow Christ on the Way of the Cross to Golgatha.
Chocolate, coffee, TV?
When we think about giving something up for the 40 days, sometimes we think of something like coke. There's nothing particularly wrong with this, however what have we accomplished at the end of 40 days? At the very least, we have more self-control and a strengthened will.
Instead, try to give up something for good. May this Lent be a real life changer. If you can, consider the smallest, littlest sin that you suffer; give that up for Lent and for good. For instance, maybe you don't have difficulty with lying, just a few "white lies*." Give it up for Lent, give it up for good.
If you gave up a sin every year, think how much better your soul would be in 5, 10, 20, 50 years? Beware, make sure it is the easiest sin to give up.
Fasting and Abstinence
Fasting is defined as one meal during said day or two smaller meals which don't add to be one meal. This is moral binding on all Catholics between the ages of 18-59, except for: women who are pregnant or nursing, any person who is temporarily ill or perpetually ill, any person suffering from a condition (eg. diabetes) which requires food to regulate the condition, or any person who suffers from a mental defect which would prevent the fasting. If you have any concerns, please ask your Pastor. Note that a fast does not include liquids, such as: water, milk, juice, etc; though it does include more substantial drinks, such as: milkshakes.
Abstinence is defined as not eating meat; meat is understood to come from any land animal. While anything from the sea is considered acceptable, it is most praiseworthy to refrain from eating expensive seafood, as abstinence is a penitential practice. Abstinence is binding upon all Catholics starting at the age 14. If there are some concerns about dietary necessities, please ask your Pastor.
Days of Fasting and Abstinence = Ash Wednesday and Good Friday
If possible, the Fasting of Good Friday should be continued until after the Easter Vigil on Saturday night.
Days of Abstinence = every Friday of Lent...but...
Every Friday of the year and not just during Lent are considered penitential days, unless there is a celebrated solemnity. That means that each Catholic after turning 14 years old must do some form of penance or charity every Friday, though many still choose to observe abstinence on every Friday. During Lent, however, every Friday is a day of abstinence; you are not permitted to make a substitution on these days.
So how is less more? When we are lacking something, it is then that a few things start to happen. We recognize:
The importance of that thing
If we give up something like coffee, we recognize how much we miss it.
We also see that maybe we have been a slave to such things, and it would do us well to break that dependency and live in the freedom Christ won for us by His Blood.
A potential strength
If we don't have to be dependent on the thing we've given up, then we have a new found strength.
We also see that there are many things in the world seeking to weaken our resolve and our wills.
A new path
If we make it through Lent, we see that we can live in a truly different way.
We also see that we are on the road to perfection; while not there yet, we are in the process and making progress.
So go beyond the minimum. Take this Lent to the next level. Make it one that you'll never forget. Grow this year more than any other years. Give up a sin instead of a snickers. Fast for real; make the sacrifice. Abstain from meats for just one day, uniting your small sacrifice with Christ's great sacrifice. Stay tuned for two more articles, prayer and almsgiving, to fill out the trifecta of Lenten spiritual boosts.
Looking for some more fasting ideas to kick it up this year, try:
Going without your favorite TV program or going to the movies
Avoid your cellphone after 6 pm
Giving up one night a week for the a unified family event at home
Cooking another meal or two instead of going out to eat
Going to sleep 30 minutes earlier to wake up the next morning 30 minutes earlier
Calling friends/family instead of messaging them on facebook
Have you got some ideas? Leave them in the message board below.
FMI: Check out the USCCB website by clicking here.
* White lies are still lies