We are observing the season of Lent. During this season, we make an attempt to take account of our lives. We examine our inner lives. To do this, we use different means. Fasting is one of the traditional ways of focusing on our inner lives. This method is used in various religions for the same purpose. Do you think we can still use this method meaningfully in the twenty-first century?

Some have too little. Others have too much! 

How can our fasting be meaningful? What do we expect to gain by fasting? The word ‘hungry’ literally means ‘a fire in the stomach’ (in Sinhala). And this should lead us to contemplate the needs of others. Often, we forget how many people in this world barely have the necessities of life. How do we respond to this issue? 

Here, I am reminded of a saying of the Roman Catholic Archbishop Don Helder Camara who said, ‘Food for my stomach is a material need, but food for my neighbour’s stomach is a spiritual matter’. Some people have too little because others have too much. How to deal with this imbalance? Do you think that it is God’s will for some people to have too much and others to have too little? It is important for us to think about the spiritual aspects of this issue through fasting. 

Who’s behind the wheel?

Secondly, fasting teaches us self-discipline. When we fast, we learn to control our emotions. This really helps us in our day-to-day activities. Lack of self-discipline is one of the main problems in our society. Often, people try to control others but find it difficult to control themselves. In this Lenten season, we should take fasting as a good way of seeing how far we can control our own selves. 

Do we live to eat or eat to live?

Thirdly, fasting helps us to realise that our lives do not wholly depend on material things. We might have material needs in our day-to-day life but let me ask a question, “Do we live to eat or eat to live?” At times, we think we live to eat and forget we eat to live. Do you remember how people wanted to make Jesus a king when he fed the five thousand? Jesus was very unhappy about this and said, “You follow me because I gave you something to eat”.

Often, we don’t realise how much our lives are controlled by material things. We have become slaves of money and wealth. So, fasting would help liberate us from this bondage. It is necessary for us to understand that although we have material needs, we need to turn and fix our focus on spiritual concerns.

Take the first step forward during Lent

Today, I would like to draw your attention to these three aspects as subjects for meditation in this Lenten season. Just think of these three things and make an attempt to benefit from fasting. Let me remind you of them. We need to be concerned about and share in the suffering of others. It is equally important, at the same time, to learn to control ourselves. Then we also need to realise that we should not completely depend on material things. 

I am sure we can use this as a way towards a higher level of spirituality, both for ourselves and for the benefit of others. Take the first step during this Lenten season and go forward. Let us ask God to give us His grace to understand ourselves so that we will be able to serve him and His creation in His world.

Photo by Dr Jean Fortunet from Wikimedia Commons

Rt. Rev'd Keerthisiri Fernando is the Bishop of Kurunegala in the Diocese of Kurunegala, Church of Ceylon, Sri Lanka