We live in not only a land of plenty, but we live in THE land of plenty. Some of you grew up in the Depression and some of us grew up with parents or grandparents who did and who taught us the value of everything, especially the basics of life. Most of us have jobs, or pension, and some form of health insurance.
Today for many of us the basics have changed to include cable television, some sort of smart cell phone, more than one car per family, eating in restaurants quite often, and all sorts of luxury items that we probably take for granted. None of this is a judgment. Think of it as a reality check.
There may be people who do suffer want for the most basic needs in life. How many do you know? Perhaps, along with the abundance in our lives comes a certain amount of ignorance of the condition of the lives of others. Some current advertising states that forty percent (40%) of all food in our country is thrown away. That means that not only the food, but the resources to grow, process, ship, store, and prepare it are wasted, too. Some people just don’t do leftovers. We wouldn’t automatically take that money and throw it in the trash, but ultimately we do. Perhaps along with the abundance and the ignorance also comes some confusion about fasting and other penitential practices.
If no one has ever said “no” to the younger generations, why should they say “no” to themselves?
People might fast for cosmetic reasons, but religion is old-fashioned. Perhaps we can look at fasting in a different light. The Greeks were the first to say, “All things in moderation,” and we are encouraged to have balance in many areas of our lives for the health and longevity of our bodies and minds. So, too, the Great Fast, gives us an opportunity to balance our spirit as well.
Our Lenten requirements in the Byzantine Catholic Church are quite minimal - strict fast on the first Monday and on Good Friday, and no meat on Wednesdays and Fridays. Is that really all you are going to do for the Great Fast?
Another way of looking at fasting is a chance to eliminate one thing and to replace it with another. I don’t mean eating a ton of fish and halushki instead of a burger and fries. Fasting from food is supposed to kick start us into fasting from other stuff.
I often tell folks in Confession, as creatures of habit, we need to not only remove “bad habits,” but also to replace them with “good habits.” We’ve all heard that less is more. Perhaps we can think in those terms in the days ahead.
Less food. (More exercise.)
Less noise. (More quiet contemplation.)
Less judgment. (More compassion.)
Less anger. (More peace.)
Less TV. (More Bible.)
Less sloth and laziness. (More action and interest.)
Less swearing and cursing. (More praying.)
Less telephone. (More human interaction.)
Less pain. (More healing.)
Less sadness and depression. (More joy.)
Less envy and self-pity. (More acceptance.)
Less greed. (More sharing.)
Less pride. (More humility.)
Less anxiety. (More calm.)
Less bad, sad, mad. (More glad.)
What is your own less (and more)? From what do you need to fast? Think about it.
Try it. Have a blessed fast.
The author is a priest of the Byzantine Catholic Metropolia of Pittsburgh.