Friday, February 19, 2021

Friday after Ash Wednesday

Fasting, a word that speaks Lent, a penitential practice that we are called to embrace as we prepare for Easter. This practice has never sat well with me since, what is its purpose and how does it connect with Christ? In the gospel, Jesús is asked why his disciples don’t fast while the Pharisees and followers of John the Baptist do fast. Jesus’s reply reminds those who question that while the Bridegroom is present, one doesn’t fast; when he is gone, or taken away, then the fasting begins.

I get it. After the resurrection, Jesus left us, after freely facing a horrible, painful death, so the time of fasting begins. I’m still troubled by just what fasting is, what foods to avoid, shouldn’t ALL food be eliminated, 40 days without food is impossible, even for Jesus, what does fasting accomplish but to become more moderate in our eating/drinking habits, shouldn’t this be year round, doesn’t fasting make us focus too much on ourselves, and the questions keep coming....

Scripture says in several places, that the fasting God desires is to feed the poor, help the widow, free those bound unjustly, make the world a place of justice. When I hear people saying that they are “fasting” from sweets, liquor, tv, etc. I keep asking myself, what is the purpose?

Is it to feel good about yourself, making you feel like you’ve made this big sacrifice and now you’re good to go in God’s eyes? The less we focus on ourselves during Lent, the better for our inner lives.
I want to deepen my relationship with Christ so I can help others do the same, not because I’m a priest, but because I’m a disciple. My Lent is slowly reading a Russian Orthodox spiritual classic, The Way of the Pilgrim, which describes the quest, journey of a simple man to learn how to pray ceaselessly. He learns that deep prayer involves repeating the JESUS PRAYER:

“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”

That’s it!!! Simple. Easy. The Jesus Prayer has been part of Eastetn Christianity for countless centuries. As the Spirit FYI r Jesus into the desert, that sang Spirit moved me to this ancient prayer, at the heart of a beautiful spiritual classic. About a pilgrim on a journey...

My Lent will not focus on fasting, but on prayer, and falling more deeply in love with Christ.

Fr. Frank