The Lenten Fast
“Do not judge, so you may not be judged.”
Lent is supposed to be a time for fasting, prayer, meditation and worship. I wonder how many Christians get much further than the fast. Like New Year’s resolutions, fasting is a simple, tangible discipline, easy to start, easy to give up. It takes much more effort to concentrate on the intangible practices of prayer and meditation. The obvious danger is that fasting is, of necessity, short term. If I give up red meat for the entire forty days of Lent and then eat cheeseburgers every day during Easter week, I haven’t accomplished a whole lot. The same is true if I give up chocolate, bread, sweets, or my standard—oatmeal-raisin cookies. My beltline and blood sugar may improve, but my heart and soul won’t notice any difference. By concentrating on the tangible, we allow ourselves to wiggle out of the more difficult task of caring for our souls. Lent is about the body, mind, and spirit, and each needs Lenten discipline.
A less visible danger of emphasizing the fast is the risk of becoming judgmental. We ask everyone what they are “giving up.” We watch family and friends like hawks to see if they are “keeping Lent,” ready to pounce when we catch them taking a drink or eating a piece of cake. If we are not careful, we become sanctimonious Pharisees, sure we’re the only ones who know what Lent is truly about.
That’s not to say the fast has no value. Just be sure your fast is an outward and visible reflection of an inward and spiritual grace gained through prayer and meditation, and not a judgment.
Appointed readings for today: Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 71:1-14, John 12:20-36