My Standard Sacrifice
Since I was a child, I remember my father doing the same things for Lent every year. He would go to daily Mass and observe a modified fast by avoiding eating between meals.
When I was in high school, I too began to eat only three meals a day during Lent. Unfortunately, the great temptation with this sacrifice, as with most, is to live the letter of the law rather than its spirit. Instead of eating three normal, everyday meals and offering up the time in between as a sacrifice to unite with the cross of Christ, it’s all too easy to eat a big meal…and keep eating…and tell yourself that as long as you haven’t stopped eating yet, the “meal” hasn’t ended.
After a two-hour dinner, including the sit-down part and the grazing in the kitchen immediately after, I would find myself feeling stuffed, bloated, and guilty. I think I actually gained weight during Lent some years! Other years I did well, restraining myself (or refining my sacrifice to keep myself accountable) and truly learning the value of hunger, fasting, and sacrifice.
Last year my husband and I actually changed course from the “no eating between meals” mid-Lent. We decided that forgoing second helpings and all sweets would be a better sacrifice, better for our waistlines, and that we would be more likely not to push the envelope. As tempting as it was to take gargantuan helpings at dinner, we were on top of it, and we were able to offer up our hunger. We were better Christians and better people for the decision.
Why do Catholics fast?
I’ll let the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, take that one:
“In the very first pages of Sacred Scripture, the Lord commands man to abstain from partaking of the prohibited fruit: “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gn 2, 16-17). Commenting on the divine injunction, Saint Basil observes that “fasting was ordained in Paradise,” and “the first commandment in this sense was delivered to Adam.” He thus concludes: ” ‘You shall not eat’ is a law of fasting and abstinence” (cf. Sermo de jejunio: PG 31, 163, 98).”
“In our own day, fasting seems to have lost something of its spiritual meaning, and has taken on, in a culture characterized by the search for material well-being, a therapeutic value for the care of one’s body. Fasting certainly bring benefits to physical well-being, but for believers, it is, in the first place, a “therapy” to heal all that prevents them from conformity to the will of God”
“Voluntary fasting enables us to grow in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who bends low and goes to the help of his suffering brother (cf. Encyclical Deus caritas est, 15). By freely embracing an act of self-denial for the sake of another, we make a statement that our brother or sister in need is not a stranger”
from his Lenten message for this year
What’s important to remember is to fast for the right reason: not to lose weight, or to accomplish something for your own pride, but to unite your sacrifice to Christ (Col. 1:24…more to come later on this concept). Allow your hunger to remind you NOT of what you’re not eating or to make you grumpy, but to be a reminder to pray…like a cell phone alarm in your tummy. “Gurgle, I’m hungry!” =Time to pray. See? Simple. It’s the easiest way to answer St. Paul’s call in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray without ceasing.”
Ideas to Share
Here are some of the ways you can fast from food:
- No eating between meals
- No sweets/desserts
- No second helpings
- Adding a meatless Wednesday to the traditional meatless Fridays
By the way, I’ll be hosting a “Meatless Meals Carnival” in 2 weeks, just about the time you’re running out of ideas for Friday meals.
- Forego condiments (I read about a convent that does this daily)
- Bread and water fast one day a week
- Foregoing X (sweets, cheese, whatever is your tough spot) on just one or two days a week. I often do it on Wednesday/Friday because that’s when Our Lady of Medjugorje (or here) asks us to fast and pray.
When you are hungry for food, be hungry for Christ!
Some other ways to fast:
- From complaining
- From television
- From snapping at your spouse/kids
- From the snooze button
- From purchasing anything you don’t NEED
Please Share YOUR Ideas
Dialogue between Christians is so helpful. That’s why God tells us to go to church every week, to meet together to pray and learn. He loves to talk to us in the woods alone too, but He would never say that’s good enough. Please join in with your Lenten promises in the comments section. Maybe you can inspire someone else to grow in their Lenten journey this year!
I challenge you to make some kitchen stewardship sacrifices this Lent. Whether you appropriately fast by not eating between meals, give up seconds and/or sweets, or find some other way to make Lent a prayerful time in the kitchen, make it count. Offer it up. Improve your prayer life by learning the value of sacrifice.