I write this on the evening of Ash Wednesday, the day that begins the 40 day preparation for Easter. Ash Wednesday commemorates the time that Jesus fasted in the wilderness before his passion, death, and resurrection. Catholics and other Christians commemorate this in different ways. As children many of us were told we should give up something we like (candy, soda, etc.). Adults were told to give up things that were bad for them (tobacco, alcohol, etc.).
A few decades ago some followers suggested that instead of giving up something we like we could chose to do something positive. I remember someone deciding to pick up a piece of trash everyday. He had no illusion that this would end the problem of worldwide trash but it would make him more aware of our need to care for the world. I also know someone who decided to spend Lent making certain that he would compliment someone every day. He would say “good job” or “I like working with you” or whatever.
Three years ago Pope Francis enumerated a list of things we can do for Lent and I keep coming back to it. And I wish to share it with you:
Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
Fast from worries and trust in God.
Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy.
Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.
Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.
Thank you Francis.