Blessed Lent to All
We often wonder what meaning there is for Christians in depriving themselves during lent, of something that is good and useful for their physical subsistence. The Sacred Scriptures and the Christian traditions teach us that fasting is a great motivator to avoid sin and all that evokes it. Christianity and the history of redemption are abundant with instances that invite and promote fasting. For instance, in the first pages of the Sacred Scriptures, the Lord commands man to refrain from partaking of the forbidden fruit: "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die" (Gen 2, 16-17).
In the New Testament, Jesus deftly illuminates the true reason for fasting. True fasting is to do the will of the Heavenly Father, as exemplified by Jesus’ answer to Satan, at the end of the forty days spent in the desert: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). True fasting is thus directed to consuming the "true food," which is to do the Father's will. The believer, through fasting, modestly submits himself to God, trusting in His goodness and mercy.
In our current times, fasting seems to have lost something essential of its divine meaning, and has taken on, in a culture immensely impacted by the search for material welfare, a beneficial value for the care of one's body. Fasting certainly brings benefits to the physical well-being; but for believers, it is, in the first place, a means to “heal” their soul and bring them closer to the will of God. Lent should be an encouraging time to mortify egoism and open the hearts to the love of God and others. According to the Apostolic Constitution, abstaining from material food nourishes an interior motivation to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, Christians allow the Lord to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that they experience in the depths of their beings: the hunger and thirst for God. Additionally, fasting as a voluntary act of self-denial shows compassion and solidarity with the poor and the hungry. From the beginning, this has been the symbol of the Christian community, in which the faithful are invited to give to the poor what had been set aside from their ‘fast’.
Voluntary detachment from the pleasure of food and other material goods entices people who are weakened by temptations and sin, to cast aside all that distracts the spirit and grow in what nourishes the soul and moves it to love of God (and others). This is the true meaning of lent.
As we observe the start of the holy season of lent, the season of repentance and sacrifice, “let us use sparingly words, food, and drink, sleep and amusements; may we be more alert in the custody of our senses” (Ancient hymn of Lenten Liturgy).