Lent begins after Shrove Tuesday (February 13th in 2018) and Ash Wednesday (February 14th in 2018)
Lent, those 40 day’s leading up to the crucifixion of Christ, when we commemorate his 40 days spent in the wilderness preparing for his ministry, inspires people of all traditions to fast, or voluntarily give things up for a season. But it is often just that, a voluntary giving up. Historically the fasting of Lent was, for many people, a necessity rather than a choice. This was the hunger season, that season of the year when there were no fresh crops and the stored goods from last year were dwindling. Hunger and starvation was at its height. Yet it was also a season of hope and promise. New seeds were being planted in the expectation of abundance to come. (Christine Sine). So as you get ready to walk through Lent and look forward to the celebration of Easter this year what gnaws with hungry pangs at your soul – is it God’s call for transformation within yourself? Is it your passion for justice and healing? Is it your desire for the restoration of polluted areas of our earth? or is it something else that comes to mind. There are many studies that can be accessed on the web, including A Journey into Wholeness by Christine Sine (available as a PDF here). Each week of Lent emphasizes a different area of brokenness in our world. Over the five weeks of Lent we will deal with issues of inner healing, hunger, homelessness, stewardship of creation and the brokenness of God’s family.It is our hope that the daily reflections in the book and the additional reflections on the blog will help draw people more fully into those themes, beginning a few days before Lent with reflections on preparing for Lent and Easter.
There’s also a new downloadable e-version incorporating daily reflections, updated resources and weekly litanies (cost, available on Amazon etc).
Fasting: Catholics fast on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays during the Lenten season, and many other people—religious or not—take up this increasingly popular discipline during the year. Pope Francis: “fasting must never become superficial”. He often quotes the early Christian mystic John Chrysostom who said: “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.”
But this isn’t to downplay the role of sacrifice during the Lenten season. Lent is a good time for penance and self-denial. But once again, Francis says that these activities must truly enrich others: “I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”
Francis suggests that even more than candy or alcohol, we fast from indifference towards others. In his annual Lenten message, the pope writes, “Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.” Describing this phenomenon he calls the globalization of indifference, 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.”
But when we fast from this indifference, we can began to feast on love. In fact, Lent is the perfect time to learn how to love again. (from an article by Christopher J Hale).