I can’t believe it’s been a year since I wrote my Lenten Reflection for 2020. February last year we were only hearing about the Coronavirus in the news then a few weeks after, Metro Manila was put on lockdown and quarantine was enforced. Fast forward to today, even though the world has changed and we live in another country, we still celebrate this season the way we always do–one of which is to fast.
It’s always immediate for me to think of what I will fast for every Lenten season. Usually I end up not consuming my weakness– sweets– for 40 days. While it seems so trivial and simple, veering away from food you eat daily that gives you joy and puts you in a good mood is quite challenging. I know a few people who have given up drinking wine, social media, unnecessary spending and other earthy things during this time of the year. Whatever it is one gives up, if its something that they enjoy doing albeit unnecessary, then its definitely a challenge.
Last year it was extra challenging for me to give up sweets because we were in quarantine. The temptation to go to the kitchen and finish a bar of vegan dark chocolate was like so persistent that this ultimately was the most challenging fast for Lent I’ve done. Unknowingly, this has helped me strengthen my self control. Even though our pantry is stocked with my new snack discoveries here in Dubai, I’m more mindful and can say have been fasting in my own little way daily. I only have my sweets on weekends and have lessen my snacking moments. So doing my usual no-sweets fast on Lent isn’t much of challenge now. This got me thinking, what fasting can I do?
As I was reading the 2021 Lenten message of Pope Francis, I can’t help but feel hopeful and purposeful. It gave me a renewed sense of purpose and has has shifted my mindset when it comes to what I need to offer this season. Lent is after all about renewing our faith, hope and love. Pope Francis centered on faith, hope and love. Here’s an excerpt of his message.
Faith calls us to accept the truth and testify to it before God and all our brothers and sisters.
Lent is a time for believing, for welcoming God into our lives and allowing him to “make his dwelling” among us (cf. Jn 14:23). Fasting involves being freed from all that weighs us down – like consumerism or an excess of information, whether true or false – in order to open the doors of our hearts to the One who comes to us, poor in all things, yet “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14): the Son of God our Saviour.https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2021/02/12/210212a.html
Fasting or abstinence from things that provide comfort or familiarity leads to being closer to God. It strips us down to what is essential. While most of us think fasting is an obstacle we needed to overcome, it’s actually a way for us to experience freedom. Honestly for the past few years I’ve always fasted as my penance for Lent. I didn’t really think about the deeper meaning behind it until now. My fasting used to be all about overcoming physical discomfort (abstinence from having my favorite food, from an activity I’m used to doing, from things that make my life easier). Not like there’s anything wrong with choosing to fast this way, but this year I think I’m trying these fast suggestions by Pope Francis.
I think these are harder to do because let’s face it, we aren’t as mindful with our thoughts and emotions and usually they sneak up on us intensely. If there’s one thing on Pope Francis’ list that I find the most challenging it would have to be ‘worries’ as I tend do anticipatory anxiety and worry over things beyond my control. This mindset clearly contradicts they way I trust God and I know this is something I need to work on.
Hope as “living water” enabling us to continue our journey.
To experience Lent in hope entails growing in the realization that, in Jesus Christ, we are witnesses of new times, in which God is “making all things new” (cf. Rev 21:1-6). It means receiving the hope of Christ, who gave his life on the cross and was raised by God on the third day, and always being “prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls [us] to account for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Pet 3:15).https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2021/02/12/210212a.html
I admit being in quarantine for the past few months in Manila made it really hard for me to feel hopeful. The uncertain the pandemic has brought upon us all gave me anxiety. But knowing there’s already a vaccine and even though life isn’t fully back to normal, knowing things always get better eventually gives me so much hope.
Love, following in the footsteps of Christ, in concern and compassion for all,is the highest expression of our faith and hope.
To experience Lent with love means caring for those who suffer or feel abandoned and fearful because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In these days of deep uncertainty about the future, let us keep in mind the Lord’s word to his Servant, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you” (Is 43:1). In our charity, may we speak words of reassurance and help others to realize that God loves them as sons and daughters.https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2021/02/12/210212a.html
Love in all forms, in all ways. While its easy to love someone who loves you back, it’s harder to love those who doesn’t. A lot of people are suffering from the pandemic. It’s not only financially but emotionally & mentally as well. A good way to show love to others is to offer a hand, an ear or even eyes. To hold their hand when they need a boost, to listen to them when they need to let something out and see them for the beauty that they offer especially when they can’t see the beauty they posses.
Looking forward to immersing myself to my fast this year.