“Lent is here! Lent is here! What do I do now? Gotta get rid of all the meat in the house… gotta buy LOTS of veggie burgers instead… and tofu… and anything that tastes like plastic. What do I do next? How much should I fast? How much should I pray? How much should I read? And WHAT should I read? SOMEONE TELL ME WHAT TO DO!!!!”
Never fear my brothers and sisters, Fr. Anthony’s Wednesday blog post and Periscope are here.
Today I’ll share what I am “doing" for Lent (even though I don’t like that expression and you’ll see why in a minute) and I’ll be answering your questions about anything Lent-related in today’s scope at 12:30 pm EST.
So where am I headed this Lent? Three thoughts.
1) It's not about the FOOD
When a father speaks to his nervous child before an exam, he usually says “your grade doesn’t matter; all that matters is that you try your best.” But as soon as the child comes home with the graded paper, the first question he gets asked is “what grade did you get? What grade did you get?”
It doesn’t take long for kids to figure out what’s really important to dad. If your first question after the exam is always “what grade did you get? What grade did you get?”, your kid will figure it out pretty quickly that it’s the grade that you care most about.
In other words, you can tell your child that what matters is his effort, but your second question betrays your first one.
We do the same with fasting and Lent. At the start of Lent, we are sure to say that Lent is not about the food. “It’s not about the food; food is the least important part of fasting” might be a common phrase you’d hear in most churches at the start of Lent. But then the problem comes that throughout Lent, all we talk about is fasting.
“Are you fasting? How much are you fasting? What exactly are you eating? Did you remember to get soy milk in your latte? Did you order that bean burrito without cheese? And make sure you never get the generic Oreos – they have whey in them!”
As the parent with the exam, our second set of questions betray our first. We say Lent isn’t about fasting and the food, but then that’s all we talk about and hear about and think about: fasting and the food.
So let me say it one more time: LENT IS NOT ABOUT THE FOOD. If you hear Lent and you automatically think of food, something isn’t right. I’m not saying it’s your fault (this was probably beaten into your head over the course of many years), but I am saying that we gotta fix it.
2. It is about RELATIONSHIPS
Did you know that the original idea behind fasting was that you would skip a meal and then give that food (or the money saved from it) to someone poor and in need? Skipping a meal for the sake of skipping a meal was never the idea; the idea was to skip a meal for the sake of a brother/sister in need.
So with that in mind, I believe fasting needs to be focused around relationships, not food. If we think of fasting as a commandment, then we may see it in a new light if we put into the context of Jesus’ words in Mark 12:
“The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
No other commandment greater than these, huh? I guess that includes fasting. If then my fasting for Lent is dietary only and not relational, something is off.
So here’s how I am going to apply that. I am going to focus my fast on the #1 killer of all relationships in our day and age. This killer will destroy your relationship with your friends, your family, yourself and most of all with your Father in heaven. What is that relationship killer???
3. My primary focus is to fast from NOISE
Yep, that’s right. I am going to try to do a “noise fast” during this Lent. What is noise? Noise is what kills my ability to relate to God and relate to others in a deep and meaningful way.
- Noise comes from the electronic gadgets I have all around me – my phone, my iPad, my TV, my laptop, etc.
- Noise comes from all the superficial social events that I fill calendar with – the “hanging out” because I’m bored… the “let’s get together and gossip” sessions… and of course the “come over and I’ll grab some drinks” shindigs.
- Noise comes from constantly needing some type of stimulus around me at all times - whether it's music or TV or video games or some type of social media.
NOISE KILLS RELATIONSHIPS.
So the goal of my Lent is to fast from the noise. How?
- more time in SILENCE – evaluating where I’m headed in my relationships, my ministry, my personal life, etc.
- more time DREAMING – asking God to show me His dream for my family, my church, my community, etc.
- more time READING – because when I’m reading, I am giving God a chance to speak to me in new and different ways. (fyi, we’re reading this book together for Lent. It’s $30 online vs $20 if you come to church this Sunday).
I want to spend more time in peace and quiet – why? Because that’s where I find You O Lord.
“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)