A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Is Lent Your Cup of Tea?

By Fr Kevin
Bates sm

Ash Wednesday is upon us once again and the season of Lent beckons. Once upon a time we all took the Lenten fast very seriously along with the various requirements for Fasting, Mass attendance, Reconciliation and Lenten resolutions of our own. 

As the culture has changed and the Church has modified some of the requirements, they’ve tended to slip into oblivion in the lives of many of us. 

In an earlier time there were always exemptions for the ill, the elderly and those under various special pressures. There’s now the possibility that we all think we qualify for these! Lent simply becomes the period leading up to the Easter Show and Easter holidays and not much more.

The Moslem holy month of Ramadan draws attention around the community as Moslems observe their laws regarding fasting and prayer with great care. Some of us might look at them and regard them as a bit eccentric and some of us might regard their religious fervour as worthy of praise. They may have something to teach us. 

The ancient practice of keeping feasting and fasting in balance has a lot to recommend it. Society recognises this as a healthy way to go as is evidenced by the plethora of weight-loss and wellness programs. Light’n  Easy, Jenny Craig and the rest of them are on to something.

As well as being good for our physical health, some fasting can be good for our spirit. Some acts of sacrifice for the sake of love can go even further and be good for the world around us. 

We can teach each other that living with a free, rather than a possessive, heart is good for all of us. We can discover the liberating benefits of measuring our response to our hungers and desires rather than allowing them to dictate to us. We might even find that we are actually choosing our life’s path rather than simply conforming to the consumer society that demands that we satisfy every urge as quickly as possible. 

When our needs, desires and urges move off centre-stage to their proper place, our life becomes more balanced, clearly focused and relaxed. 

At the same time, and if we are attentive, the space we create through some thoughtful acts of sacrifice and fasting can leave room for God to enter the conversations that shape our days and weeks. 

We cannot taste God when we are totally absorbed with satisfying all our other hungers. There’s simply no room!

Fasting, then, is a most important tool for us to use in order to discover the place that God can take in our lives. When we are empty, then love can find us. When we create the space that only fasting can create, then we enable God’s presence to fill us. 

It sounds hard to do, and perhaps something better left to the more religious among us. However, a gentle rhythm of sacrifice and fasting can become a joyful habit and enable us to taste more than we’d ever bargained for. 

Some of our great saints have modelled this for us. Some of them have probably gone a lot further than we can manage, but they serve to make their point, that it is God alone who can satisfy our deepest hungers.

All our other hungers need replenishing regularly. The satisfaction they bring never lasts for long. 

Once we make space and allow God to live at the centre of everything, our satisfaction is one that deepens and nourishes constantly. 

Funnily enough, once God lives at the heart of each day, our enjoyment of everything else becomes deeper, freer, and we get to live thankful, rather than hungry, needy lives. 

If Lent is not your cup of tea, it might be worth your while changing brands and trying this always new and refreshing brew!

May this sacred season be for you a time of real refreshment and grace.   

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