Fasting from Indifference, Feasting on Love

Volcano Cotopaxi in the background of the big cross on Ilalo mountain, La Merced, Ecuador. (Photo by Erik in 2004)

Volcano Cotopaxi in the background of the big cross on Ilalo mountain, La Merced, Ecuador. (Photo by Erik in 2004)

I’m always encouraged this time of year hearing different people’s perspectives on what this 40 day season should mean and look like- I am inspired by the creative ways that my sisters and brothers intentionally seek to reflect, repent, and renew their spiritual life.

The memory of last night’s meaningful Ash Wednesday service still fresh, I have stumbled upon an article from TIME published yesterday that has greatly challenged me and compelled me to share: Pope Francis’ Guide to Lent: What You Should Give Up This Year.

Whatever your personal opinion is about the Pope, you have to admit he is on to something when he warns against superficial fasting by quoting the early Christian mystic, John Chrysostom: “No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”

Pope Francis encourages Christians to participate in the penance and self denial that commonly accompanies this time, but compels us to take it a step further than the typical meatless Fridays or avoiding Facebook. He ultimately challenges us to fast from indifference towards others. Francis 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.” He continues that, “We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”

I personally feel inspired to be attentive to my actions and how they affect others. What comes to mind specifically is my spending habits- being aware of how my lifestyle and privilege come at a cost to others. I want to be mindful of where my purchases come from; I want to base my shopping choices on empowering others, rather than exploiting them.

In addition to the material poor, I also need to be considerate of the socially marginalized people all around me. I want to speak up for people who are excluded, who suffer from loneliness, or prejudice. It will disturb the comfortable (me), but I hope it also comforts the disturbed. I look to the life and heart of Jesus as my example.

What are some tangible ways you hope to fast from indifference?

May you have a meaningful Lenten season, and feast on God’s love.

Read Pope Francis’ whole Lent message here.

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