I was looking at my back garden one time and felt sad about its sorry state. Hubby (gardener of the house) has been unable to tend to it due to busy work and weekend commitments. I needed to pick up the slack, desiring to turn it into a happy place once again. Some of our much-loved shrubs had turned ochre and the ground overrun by weeds. For weeks, I was on my knees pulling out the stubborn wildflowers. Garden experts agree that regular pulling of these plants is the best approach with attention to removal of all the roots.
I realised that our spiritual life can be similar. If unattended, our weaknesses can easily become sin and creep into our life insidiously and choke our spiritual health. As a Catholic, I attend daily Mass in our local parish. I find the Eucharist a great source of thanksgiving, healing and strength. Yet I struggle especially at consecration when my mind immediately wanders off to the food I want to eat after Mass! How odd! Such a distracting thought! Although it starts as a temptation, I know it can easily become a tragic flaw in my reverence for the Lord. After a lot of prayer, I am now more conscious of its lure by being attentive and forcing myself to focus at Mass.
As I write this article, it is Ash Wednesday, one of the most popular and important holy days in the liturgical calendar. Ash Wednesday opens Lent, a season of fasting and prayer. It takes place 46 days before Easter Sunday, and is chiefly observed by Catholics, although many other Christians observe it too. Ashes symbolise grief, in this case, grief that we have sinned and caused division from God.
Lent is indeed a season of fasting and personal sacrifice. But we are also reminded that it can be a time of feasting. William Ward, American author, teacher and pastor (1921-1994) beautifully shares his thoughts.
Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling in them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on divine order.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer
Fast from hostility; feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragements; feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; feast on verities that uplift
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that undergirds.
Pope Francis urges us “to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer. If, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God! He constantly gives us a chance to begin loving anew.”
May this Easter season allow us to fast and feast in the spirit of prayer and love.