Monday, March 13, 2017

Anyone for a FAST lent?

Next week is mid lent commemorating the half way of the great lent. There are many in the church who have different sorts of lent. The first and last week of the great lent, the entire lent and half the lent. As the mid lent approaches we must also understand the real concept of the lent and also look at how it was seen in the early church.

What are some of the problems that face us during the lent? Reconciliation is supposed to be so important that we have a reconciliation service at the beginning and the end of lent. But how many of us reconcile with one another and everyone we know? Wouldn’t our church and society benefit from such a reconciliation? But we refuse to do that as reconciliation is the most difficult thing to do in our lives, more difficult than any fast, lent and diet restriction. In fact it is so difficult that we leave that out of the picture and do a big lent, feeling very self righteous in the process.

A fast like this is satisfying for our ego but does not bring about pretty much anything else. This is when we need to look at one of the advises of St.John Chrysostom. “Fasting is the change of every part of our life, because the sacrifice of the fast is not the abstinence but the distancing from sins. Therefore, whoever limits the fast to the deprivation of food, he is the one who, in reality, abhors and ridicules the fast. Are you fasting? Show me your fast with your works. Which works? If you see someone who is poor, show him mercy. If you see an enemy, reconcile with him. If you see a friend who is becoming successful, do not be jealous of him! If you see a beautiful woman on the street, pass her by. In other words, not only should the mouth fast, but the eyes and the legs and the arms and all the other parts of the body should fast as well. Let the hands fast, remaining clean from stealing and greediness. Let the legs fast, avoiding roads which lead to sinful sights. Let the eyes fast by not fixing themselves on beautiful faces and by not observing the beauty of others. You are not eating meat, are you? You should not eat debauchery with your eyes as well. Let your hearing also fast. The fast of hearing is not to accept bad talk against others and sly defamations.”

So we are asked to bring every part of our body into the fast and not just the stomach. Our mind should think of positive life affirming things, our eyes should see proper sights, our ears should hear good about others, our mouth and lips should talk good things about others, our hands should do good, our stomach should fast with others in mind, our legs should go the extra mile and our feet should stand up for others. The FAST lent that we undertake should make us
F- Feast
A- And
S- Say
T- Truth

What is a feast? A feast is to make what is available the best and happily have it instead of grumbling about what is not there. Even as we fast we must know that the poor have limited resources with them. For them a meal may be left over rice and fish curry without any fish. It could be the remains of the meal of someone else. There we cannot talk about the purity of the lent but we must give what we have to others. We are on lent so that others may have. We cannot impose our lent on others because sometimes our lent becomes the only opportunity in a year for them to eat properly. A feast is also a feast of the soul. So when the body fasts, the soul feasts. That is why the fast should not show on our face as our soul is feasting and happy.

St. John Chrysostom says again “Let the mouth fast from disgraceful and abusive words, because, what gain is there when, on the one hand we avoid eating chicken and fish and, on the other, we chew-up and consume our brothers? He who condemns and blasphemes is as if he has eaten brotherly meat, as if he has bitten into the flesh of his fellow man. It is because of this that Paul frightened us, saying: "If you chew up and consume one another be careful that you do not annihilate yourselves." You did not thrust your teeth into the flesh (of your neighbor) but you thrusted bad talk in his soul; you wounded it by spreading disfame, causing unestimatable damage both to yourself, to him, and to many others. If you cannot go without eating all day because of an ailment of the body, beloved one, no logical man will be able to criticize you for that. Besides, we have a Lord who is meek and loving (philanthropic) and who does not ask for anything beyond our power. Because he neither requires the abstinence from foods, neither that the fast take place for the simple sake of fasting, neither is its aim that we remain with empty stomachs, but that we fast to offer our entire selves to the dedication of spiritual things, having distanced ourselves from secular things.”

Our fast according to this should make our soul reach out to our brothers and sisters and not consume them by eating their souls up! The church father advises us to not eat each other! During lent is that what we end up doing or do we share with those who are in need? All through the year the poor are eaten up by others. Isn’t it time now for them to have what otherwise is always ours? FEAST AND SAY the TRUTH is being happy with what we are doing but ultimately realizing that our responsibility lies in doing good for others. This we can do only if we realize that we are also responsible in the hungry not having food and the poor not being helped. This is the essence of lent. We must fast to accept and say the truth. In St. John 8:31-32 Jesus says “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” We are sometimes blindly bound to our lent that we do not see how we should transform ourselves and help others. Our lent should make us see the truth and it should set us free. Let us FAST. Let us Feast And Say the Truth. Amen.

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