Daily Advent Reflection
The College of New Rochelle
Friday, February 15, 2013
The reading from Isaiah (58:1-9a) provided the opportunity to reflect on my own Lenten practices. The verse speaks of the act of fasting and having an appropriate motive for fasting. Isaiah writes “setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke” and “sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.” As I’ve matured, I have come to appreciate the greater symbolism of fasting as a reminder to my spiritual selves of Christ’s sacrifices.
Fasting could be defined as many things, the online Encarta dictionary definition is “abstention from food, or some types of food, especially as an act of religious observance.” The act of fasting is common in many religions, not just in Christianity. The Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist faiths also believe in fasting. Throughout history there have been varying instructions or guidelines for fasting regarding length and particular items. Today, Catholic adults ages 18-60 are instructed to fast and abstain on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. It is also common practice for many to refrain from eating meat on all Fridays during Lent as a form of penance
It’s commonplace during the 40 days of Lent to hear individuals interpreting fasting as abstaining from sweets or snack foods. I remember as a child being taught to give up something I liked, whether it was something as simple as giving up jelly beans or forgoing the latest episode of my favorite television show. Today, I observe children doing the same kind of fasting, which almost always involves giving up something. I know adults who give up using Facebook or vow not to eat chocolate or ice cream during Lent.
For me Lent is less about giving up something than it is about using the time to take a spiritual inventory. It is an opportunity to ask myself if I am living my life the way God intended. It’s a reminder to return to fundamental Christian teachings. I hadn’t realized I was following the teachings of Isaiah all this time.