This is the first week of a 6-part series on Lent focusing on Fasting, Prayer, Almsgiving, Confession, Forgiveness and Suffering. Today Brendan Gotta Gives us 3 tips on Fasting.
By: Brendan Gotta, Guest Contributor
Just when sales for junk food and sweets were finally picking back up (after New Year’s resolutions were dropped), the Church had to go and mess with them once again.
Its Lent 2016, and it starts today.
Every year, the Catholic Church asks us to journey with our Lord, as we are called to partake in Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving. For the next few weeks, I will be writing on all of these things, along with confession, forgiveness, and suffering. For now though, I want to reflect on just fasting, or more specifically, fasting from certain things during Lent, providing a few easy tips to follow that will make this Lenten season more fruitful than the last.
Let me start by saying this, I like watching the fast break in basketball, eating fast food, watching some of the Fast and Furious movies (though not all of them), etc. I like pretty much fast anything, except of course, fasting itself. When it gets down to it, it is largely because I’m a baby about the whole thing. I struggle with self-denial, if it be physical (Food, No pillow, Cold Shower, etc.) or behavioral (attitude, complaining, mindset, etc.).
Even still, for the past few years I’ve made some extravagant lists for Lent. Fasting from certain things is always on the list. I find it useful for me to make this said list, even though I have to ask myself, “How much of this am I really going to follow through on?” To give you an idea, I looked at last year’s list recently and found myself laughing when I saw one of the first things was, “No meat during Lent.” I can tell you this – I definitely ate meat, and it was good.
With that, my first bit of advice I want to offer is something I myself should try and follow myself.
Be realistic. Self-knowledge is key.
Whatever you decide to do this Lenten season, especially if it be in the self-denial category, try and make it something that is realistic, something you can truly follow through on during these next 40 days. It does little to no good if you try and give up your cell phone or meat for 40 days, but fail a few days in. Only bite off what you can chew.
Do something that will force you to grow and will challenge you. If we are looking at the other end of the spectrum, it is also easy to choose some sort of fast that really is not all that challenging. If you give up swearing but don’t normally swear, what good is that? Did you go all of Lent following through on your “sacrifice”? Probably, but did you grow through it? Probably not. There is nothing wrong with a simple act. God is more concerned about the reason for the act than the act itself. But we also want to make sure that what we are doing is stretching us. If we leave Lent feeling no different, it can probably be assumed that we missed an opportunity to grow closer to our Lord. Basically, choose something realistic, but also something that will be a challenge.
Make your fast a prayer.
Upon understanding yourself and choosing what sort of fasting you will be doing for the Lord, I want to offer one last piece of advice. Make your Lenten fast a prayer.
Lent is a beautiful journey, but it is very easy to do the right things for the wrong reasons (I’m guilty of it myself). How often do we give something up, not so much for the fact that it will be a challenge, but because it will force us to be healthier? I can hear the television commercial now – “Love throwing back a few beers here and there? Steadily growing a belly that would make pregnant women proud? Well do I have a solution for you! Lent 2016! Take the next 40 days off and watch that belly slowly disappear!”
Let me be clear – I understand that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, but we must understand also that our Lenten fasts are more than just an excuse to get healthier. We are called to do these things for Love of God first and foremost, not just for a thinner waistline.
Whatever you do, prayerfully discern it, and continue to pray with it throughout this season. Offer everything you do up to the Lord, for His greater glory.
If you follow these three simple tips, I believe you’re Lenten journey will be more fruitful than before, and will provide an opportunity to walk with Christ these next forty days. Remember, He died for us, so we must live for Him!
Brendan Gotta serves the Diocese as the Young Adult Coordinator in the Office for Family Life.