Lenten Reflections: Why Do We Fast?
Photo by Flickr user theilr
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays during Lent, we offer reflections from Bread staff and others who faithfully work to end hunger.
Lectionary readings (from the Revised Common Lectionary):
Growing up in the Greek Orthodox Church, the coming of Lent meant one thing: fasting. As a child I identified Lent as an interminable time of rules and guidelines on what I could eat. The Fast of Great Lent is a strict one, wherein participants abstain from meat, dairy, and even oils, and opt for smaller, simpler fare. It meant eating my morning cereal with orange juice instead of milk, foregoing "Pizza Fridays" with my classmates in elementary school, and being jealous of my other friends who got to choose what they gave up! I eagerly waited for Easter to come so that I could go back to life as normal.
As an adult, I’ve thankfully matured a bit in my faith and view the Lenten period of fasting quite differently. For Orthodox Christians, fasting is an attempt to strengthen our spiritual relationship with our creator by stripping away the worry, distractions, and concern of the secular through simplicity and solidarity with the poor and hungry.
The Great Fast of Lent hearkens the image of Jesus fasting in the desert and being tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread (Matthew 4:1-11), to which he responds,"It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
I once heard a priest describe the point of Lent in relation to its fast by telling a young parishioner that "Great Lent is much more about the words that come out of your mouth than the food you put in it."
During Lent we seek to listen more carefully to the words that come from God’s mouth, whether in prayer or scripture so that we may order our steps and words in that example. Throughout the Bible, we see the clear commandment to serve the poor and hungry and to bring justice to our world. This Lent, let us be just as mindful of what comes out of our mouths as what we put in them, so that we may be effective advocates for all those who hunger this Lenten season.
Jon Gromek is North Central regional organizer for Bread for the World.
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