Two men were discussing their pastor’s sermon on fasting during Lent. One asked the other, “What are you going to fast from during Lent?”
The second man thought hard for a moment and then answered, “I’ve decided to give up television.”
The first man’s eyes widened at the thought. “You’re giving up television for 40 days? Wow!” Thinking about it further, he asked, “What are you going to do with all of your free time?
The second man shrugged, answering, “Probably watch Netflix.”
What is it about the word fasting that makes people uncomfortable? With today’s technology, where food, drink, entertainment, etc., is only a fingertip away from us, why do we shy away from the thought of giving up even one of these luxuries, even for a short time?
Pope Francis offered his views on fasting for this Lenten season. Quoted from an interview with Time Magazine, Pope Francis suggests if we’re going to fast from anything this Lent, that even more than candy or alcohol, we fast from indifference towards others.
In his annual Lenten message, he writes “Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”
Describing this phenomenon, he calls the globalization of indifference, the Pope writes that “whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.”
It’s easy to do…to become so engrossed in our day to day lives that we fail to see those around that are suffering. Every day, the newspapers and television are filled with so many stories of tragedy and despair that it can be overwhelming to take in.
This week, it was here…in our backyard. With the storms that marched across the mid-west this week, death and destruction fell upon several communities close to us, including Crossville, Illinois. The pictures were heartbreaking…the stories of loss even more so.
But these storms did more than wreak havoc. The families interviewed are already telling stories of the outpouring of love and support from family, friends, neighbors and from total strangers. These storms turned communities upside down, making some unrecognizable, even to those who lived right there. But they also allowed for God’s grace to abound.
It’s not hard to imagine, in these circumstances, giving up a few luxuries to help those who have lost so much. So then, why should it be harder when the only one seeming to benefit from our sacrifices, during Lent, our ourselves?
Remember, the gift of fasting, is a gift we not only give to God, but to ourselves. While offering Him a sacrifice of time or possession or attitude, we are also asking Him to fill that void with something else: His presence. We are asking him to give us a deeper taste of his love and a deeper sense of His comfort and healing.
What are you willing to give up this Lent? A past hurt? A grudge? An attitude of indifference? Look beyond the coffee, the candy and the video games. Pray about what type of fasting God is calling you to. And do so with an open mind and heart…so that He can fill it with the blessings He has especially for you.