Fat Tuesday is now swept up in the trash bins of the French Quarter. Ash Wednesday and Lent has arrived.
Many followers of Jesus set aside these next 40 days leading to Holy Week as a focused time for fasting and prayer. Lent can be an opportunity to invite God to search our hearts (Psalm 139), to reveal and then purge, anything that compromises our relationship with him.
Fasting is an ancient discipline practiced by many religions. For Christians fasting is a way for us demonstrate that our souls are stronger than our bodies, that we are not slaves to our appetites, but instead rule our appetites by the strength of the Holy Spirit living in us.
Catholic believers between the ages of 18 and 59 are required to fast on Ash Wednesday. U.S. bishops define fasting as eating only one full meal the entire day and two smaller portions of food during breakfast and lunch. All Catholics 14 years old and older must abstain from meat.
Other Christian traditions leave the specifics of the fast to the conscience of the individual. The principle however is the same: Fasting helps us focus on our physical weakness and need for grace and forgiveness, and it strengthens our faith and power in the Spirit.
Consider entering a fast this Lenten season.
We’ll talk more about this in the days ahead.