We are now in the Lenten season. For the Christian churches it is a time of retreat, renewal and rededication.
Looking back at Lent when I was growing up, Lent was easy. Back when, this penitential season of Lent turned its focus from the “lesser material world”, the sins of the flesh, to concentrate on the “more valuable spiritual world” through prayer and fasting.
The thinking being, that we had to deny ourselves the material delights to experience the higher calling of the spiritual world. Adults would not eat meat on Fridays, refrain from alcohol or give up cigarettes! Kids would give up candy, watching their favorite television program or refrain from fighting with their siblings. We denied ourselves these pleasures thinking that these deprivations were sure tickets to please our creator.
In my Lenten readings and preparation, the intent of the Lenten season seems to be shifting. We are shifting from deprivation to dedication, from the negative to a more positive approach.
This is probably a good move since giving up the “delights” of this human world were not moving us closer to heaven. By the time we got there we would be hungry and grouchy anyway!
Pope Francis has built upon the fasting of the past to bring us to the dedication of being the best version of ourselves. Here’s what he wrote:
Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
Fast from worries and trust in God.
Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy.
Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.
Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.
This new emphasis definitely calls forth the best in each of us and that’s a tall order. Giving up something for 40 days seemed easy compared to this challenge.
Now that we’ve accepted this call, please pass the chocolate.