That question formed a large part of a discussion I had the other day in the course of a visit to an elementary school. I was gathered for a Q&A with students in grades 4-6, and they wanted to tell me what they were “giving up for Lent” and, of course, what I would be sacrificing.
At a certain point I asked if they would be able to give
up Instagram for Lent. Well, that was met with loud cries of horror and gasps
of disbelief! No way! Hmmm. What about Snapchat? Same thing. I had this sinking
feeling that any goodwill I had built up with them was quickly vanishing. But
the point was made: the Lenten fast aims at attachments, ie, at “giving up”
anything to which we are clinging, to which we are inordinately attached, that
holds us back from growth in our relationship with Christ.
So, what are some attachments we may want to examine in
view of letting go of them, and not only in Lent but also beyond? The Scripture
readings proclaimed at mass on the weekend suggest three “fasts” we may do well
1. Fast from self-reliance. The Gospel account of the
Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-10) recalls the Father’s identification of Jesus as
his well-beloved Son, together with His command: “Listen to him.” There is a
general tendency today to listen not to Christ but to ourselves, not to his
words but to our own desires, not to his will, but to our own determinations.
At a time when the culture encourages a false sense of autonomy and control, we
can grow attached to self-determination and self-reliance. From these we need
to fast in order to place our reliance where it belongs: on God’s providence.
2. Fast from fear. There is no shortage of events or
circumstances that can leave us anxious. It is good to keep in mind these words
of St. Paul: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or
distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... [In]
all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am
convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things
present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything
else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in
Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:35-39).” Let go of fear. Replace it with faith.
3. Fast from doubt. I participated in a prayer circle
last week with some Indigenous people. One of the elders offered a prayer for
something clearly impossible by human reckoning, and then concluded, “I know
it’s asking a lot, but I somehow think it’s possible.” Exactly. The perfect
stance before God. Nothing is beyond God’s reach. With God, nothing is
impossible. Do we believe this, or do we doubt? Listen again to St Paul: “He
who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with
him also give us everything else?” (Rom 8:32). God’s love is without limit; so,
too, is His power. Give up doubt for Lent. Give it up, period. Trust in the
love and care of God.