Lent is traditionally a time when people take on some sort of fast. That’s a strange word when you think about it. Fast. We go fast all the time in our culture, don’t we? Do we really need to go faster? Maybe we should call it a slow so we can give up going fast.
I usually give up eating sweets during Lent. That sounds good doesn’t it? Yet, when I slow down and really think about it, what is my real motivation for doing this? Here’s my dark confession. Every year I eat too much during the holidays and I’m a little embarrassed about the spare tire that grew around my waist. So, Lent is a great excuse to cut out the sweets. That’s a win/win, right? I get to “fast” from sweets so I seem really spiritual, AND I get to lose a few pounds.
Hmmm…something doesn’t seem right here.
Lent is more than a weight loss program.
If fasting is just about what I gain out of it, then where is the focus? It’s on me. Lent is designed to redirect my focus away from me and toward God’s justice in the world. This focus moves in three directions.
First, it is a time to focus on justice to God. That means giving God the attention that God deserves by spending time in prayer and scripture reading on a daily basis.
Second, it is a time to focus on justice to myself (yes, I can focus on me a little). I should cut out sweets, not because I want to look good, but because my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and it deserves to be well treated.
Third, it is a time to focus on justice to the poor. This is a time when we remind ourselves that those of us who live comfortably and have enough (or more than enough) have a responsibility to fight for the oppressed and care for those in need.
It’s really about following Jesus deeper into God’s dream for the world; a world of justice where everyone gets what they deserve as children of God, created in God’s image. It is a wonderful, and often painful, journey. There is no turning back.
My prayer for you (and me) is that this Lent will be more than a weight loss program. May it be a time of justice, peace, and refocusing our priorities to line up with God’s.