Typically, for Lent, the emphasis is on giving something up. Whether it’s fasting from sweets or something not physical like yelling, we have long been taught that fasting means abstaining from one thing during Lent. However, many sisters prefer to fast from intangible things rather than material ones, as they feel this brings them closer to God.
Below, three sisters share ways to grow in holiness during Lent, aside from giving up your favorite food or dessert.
1. Fast from Things within Yourself
“The expectation is that we will give up something very tangible for Lent. Yet, God asks us to focus on what is needed to deepen our relationship with Christ and to raise awareness of Christ in our lives.
As I’m fasting from aspects and behaviors of myself (for example, complaining, criticizing, the need to be in control, anger, or resentment), I’m doing what God is asking me to do.”
-Dominican Sister of Hope Louise Levesque, OP
It is a danger when the things that we give up become a conversation topic rather than focusing inward and deepening our relationship with God. This year, consider approaching Lent in a way that brings you closer to God, and in a way that is, perhaps, unseen to others. This may mean a fast from complaining, criticizing, a know-it-all attitude, the need to be right, the need to be in control, negativity, anger, resentment, indifference, pettiness, etc.
They’re all un-pretty parts of ourselves. And, as we focus on reforming them, we also draw closer to the spirit of God within us.
2. Approach Fasting with a Mind for Spiritual Maturing
“We each need to decide what is most meaningful for us to give up so that we can give to our spiritual maturing something which will benefit ourselves and others.”
-Sister Angelita Fenker
Sister Angelita encourages us to consider fasting as a “Lenten Love-gift.” “If we tell others what we’re ‘giving up’ during Lent (especially when they’re relishing that very thing) they’ll feel ‘less holy’ for enjoying it. It’s better to thank the cook and enjoy what’s there; there’s much less satisfaction,” she writes.
Perhaps considering a fast from gossip, too much television and other electronic media, from being critical, from self-righteousness, from procrastination, from excessive shopping, etc. not only benefits our own spiritual journey, but also helps us model Christ in fuller way to others. This transformation, to embody Christ more fully, is the very purpose of Lent. As Sister puts it, “When we focus on giving, rather than on giving up, we grant Lent a quality of energizing spiritual maturing.”
Focus Energy Outward toward Others
“Jesus shows us the attitude we should have toward life and those around us.
He calls us to consider, ‘How am I salt of the earth and light for others? Do I follow the letter of the law of Moses, or do I explore ways to be in right relationship with all of creation? And, when I am not in right relationship, do I seek and offer forgiveness?'”
-Dominican Sister of Hope Margaret Anderson, OP
When was the last time you worried about how you were going to get your next meal? While we don’t worry about if we will eat, be sheltered, or have other basic necessities, we certainly spend time worrying about what we will wear, what we will eat, what kind of lifestyle we will lead and how it will look to others. Yet, we hear that there is another way: Jesus tells his followers, “Learn from the way the wildflowers grow. Don’t worry about food or drink or clothes, your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given besides.”
Worry plays a role in each of our lives, but if it blocks us from a deeper relationship with God, and a clear mind and heart to seek the kingdom of God, it is an obstacle for us. Instead of worrying about issues in our lives that are often petty, we can perhaps use Lent to focus that energy outward toward others.
May your Lent be a season of mindful fasting and deeper holiness.
This post is part of our 2018 Lenten Series. Find a full archive of our posts on Lent here.