Lengers column: Are you fasting during Lent?

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Guest columnist Barbara Lengers is Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church’s communications officer.

In recent years, there has been a trend among Christians to make prayer and good works the focus of Lenten observances rather than fasting or self-denial. In other words, rather than give up such things as sweets, coffee, meat or condiments and seasonings, there is greater movement toward resolutions to pray more, visit a shut-in, devote more time to spiritual readings, or even “fast” from vices such as unkindness.
While prayer and works of mercy (almsgiving) are very important Lenten practices, without self-denial we not only fail to follow the example of Jesus in the desert, but we also miss the opportunity to attack the inordinate love of self.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul urges his audience to declare war on our “old self,” which is the source of our sinfulness, our disordered passions, our refusal to follow the Lord, and ultimately, our unhappiness. “You should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Eph. 4:22-24).  To allow this “old self” to exist is foolishness.
Fasting, whose outcome is two-fold, is not only an ancient Christian practice, but that of all major religions. First, the displeasure we feel reminds us of our mortality and dependence on God. Second, a meaningful and sincere Lenten observance not only makes Easter more of a celebration, but it reminds us of the glory Christ purchased for us that awaits us in the next life.
For over 2,000 years, the Catholic Church has taken seriously the observance of fasting, but equally important, she has been preparing for a great feast. Matthew 22:2-14 describes the kingdom of heaven as a wedding banquet and Luke 14:15 says, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
May God bless us all in our Lenten observances.