Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Ash Wednesday - Year B

Joel 2:12-18; 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Matthew 6:1-6.16-18

Lent is a time of prayer, fasting and abstinence.

What is fasting? It can mean many things but traditional Christian fasting is a day or more on bread and water. Of course, diabetics, the sick, the elderly and people on a special diet should not fast. But for the fit and healthy fasting means bread and water.

More people than you realise have already been making a habit of doing this. It’s hard but not too hard; some days it’s harder than others.

What happens when you fast?

You go without - you get annoyed - you are being purified in soul.
  • At breakfast you feel pious and holy.
  • At lunchtime you say, ‘This is not so difficult!’ but you quietly wonder if the bread would be nicer toasted, or maybe wholegrain would be better?
  • At tea time you are amazed at how unsatisfying bread and water can be and you think of margarine or peanut butter or cheese.
  • At bedtime you wonder if it’s worth reading till midnight just so you can have a cup of coffee and a chocolate.
So what I’m saying is that fasting on bread and water is a fairly difficult but manageable penance. And it’s a funny thing – those tasty bits of food you think about on a fast day – they somehow don’t seem all that good the next, when you can have them.

Fasting is a penance and prayer which gets you deep down.

By the way, if you haven’t fasted before and you are a coffee or tea drinker – drink a cold glass of coffee in the morning and before you go to bed – to prevent a headache.

Why should we fast during Lent? [Some people fast every Friday of the year.]

Jesus says in the Gospel: The time will come … then they will fast.

Given the world situation is seems pretty clear; it is time to fast.

How can fasting help?
  • It is a powerful prayer – pleasing to God. By fasting we give glory to God as we make a prayer with our mouth and our body.
  • We do battle with evil habits. Fasting is invasive of our comfort zone, our routines. By depriving ourselves we open ourselves to God’s grace. We cannot change ourselves but God’s grace can change anything and everything.
  • We bless our community by joining with others. We grow in awareness of others, especially those who have less.
  • We begin to love ourselves more. Fasting brings joy to our hearts and makes it easier to forgive ourselves for the sins that are ours and to forgive others for the hurts they cause us.
  • We experience ourselves more deeply and grow in self knowledge. We come to see just how attached we are to our comforts, to pampering ourselves. We experience our neediness, our weakness, our selfishness, our impatience. We come to see how afraid we are to step outside our normal way of life to do something a little more difficult for God.
  • Through fasting we begin to create within and around ourselves an atmosphere, a climate of peace.

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