Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Let Us Begin The Fast With Joy!!!


So your initial response to this picture should be, "Huh?" And that is a valid response. I acknowledge your response. The reason why I posted this picture is because of my Lenten offering. I tend to curse/swear too much and I am trying to replace my cursing with the word "Smurf" or any derivations of that word when appropriate.

Lent is a great time to reevaluate one's relationship with God. It is about remembering what is most important, which is deepening our relationship with God, and looking at what keeps us from deepening that relationship. This is where fasting comes into play.

We fast not only from bad things but also from things that gives us pleasure. And why is that? Doesn't God want us to be happy and enjoy life? Well, yes, Jesus wants us to have Life in it's fullness , but there can be a fundamental flaw in this thinking. We associate pleasure and happiness as the same thing. Pleasure is feeling good and happiness is the emotion we associate with doing well. Pleasure comes from enjoying physical things usually such as eating a good meal, smoking a good cigar, embracing another human being. Happiness comes from finishing a task we have set for ourselves or seeing things fall into place etc.; happiness is primarily a subjective experience. It is different for everyone and what might make some one happy might make some else unhappy or sad.

I think what the Church wants to call us to is more than mere happiness but to remind us of the importance of Blessedness. Scott Hahn has a great commentary on the Scriptures in the Ignatius Catholic Bible Study series on The Gospel of Matthew. He says that "Blessed" comes from the Greek word "Makarios: a favorable standing in the grace of God's covenant.(page 24)" Some translations of the Bible translate this word as "Happy" which doesn't really grasp the true meaning of the word. The Church calls us to "get right" with God as the goal of our lives. We should live our lives placing God above all things, the first commandment.

Being blessed is living on our path to God. Pope Benedict, in his book Jesus of Nazareth, (a great book for Lent!) talks about the Beatitudes as the signs of Jesus disciples. They(we) are(should be):
poor in spirit - we recognize our dependence on God.

mourn - we mourn how far the world is from God.

meek - we are living with humility and faithfulness to God.

hunger and thirst for righteousness - we living according to God's commands or getting right with God.

merciful - we realize or own faults and do not judge others for theirs.

pure of heart -we have a sincere desire for doing God's will without any ulterior motive ie. pride
or vanity.

peacemakers - we are in harmony with God's will and are reconciled with God. The Sacrament of Penance is tremendous for this.

persecuted for the sake of righteousness - we are willing to follow God no matter the consequences.

persecuted because we follow Jesus - as Jesus' disciples we are going against the world and there will be friction in our lives because of it.

We fast, in one sense, to remind us of all these things so that we may become one of those Blessed whom he calls. Fasting helps us put things in perspective. We deny our bodily and sinful desires so that we may remember how important God is in our lives. It is important to keep our fasts because "The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones." -Luke 16:10

Our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters have a very good understanding of fasting which we could benefit from. The Orthodox Research Institute has a great article for fasting that I wanted to quote.

"Fasting, however, is not merely a matter of diet. True fasting is to be converted in heart and will; it is to consciously return to God in heart, mind, soul and body. In the words of St. John Chrysostom, fasting means “abstinence not only from food but also from sins.” “The Fast,” he insists, “should be kept not by the mouth alone, but also by the eye, the ear, the feet, the hands and all members of the body.” Let each of us, as bride, prepare by prayer, true fasting and almsgiving to receive the heavenly Bridegroom — Christ risen from the dead, trampling down death by death!"

Here is the link to the site:

Since their fasting regulations are different than ours I would stick with the motto "Keep it Catholic, Baby!" But it might a good to do something different this Lent. I'm not saying do it but pray over it and discern it.

Remember in Algebra when you were trying to solve for 'x', whatever you do to one side you must do to the other. That is why the Church tells us to pair of fasting with prayer and almsgiving or charitable works and donations. For example if you are trying to stop talking negatively about people then pray for them when you feel the need to talk negatively and focus on a positive characteristic of that person.

Lent is THE time to remember Jesus' words, "The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." - Mark 1:15

Since my Lenten offering is to stop saying bad words I will try to replace them with good words and write an entry everyday. I hope this will be a great Lent for me and you as well! Pray well!

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