Saturday, 24 February 2018

Lent reflections 2: giving up and self denial


Photograph of the Permissive Path by Syd Spence

Matthew 4:1-2

After this, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he finally became hungry.

We are often urged to give up things we like to eat or do during Lent. The abstinence that many experience during Lent cannot be considered fasting, merely giving up little unhealthy luxuries. When we go without something for any length of time we become hungry. We might miss a favourite television programme, or not go to the gym for a while, but can this hunger cannot compare with true fasting? What's it to be? Give up chocolate, delete your Facebook account, stop smoking, give up alcohol?

We all choose to mark Lent in different ways and more often than not focus on abstaining from something we enjoy, but is this always good for us? Perhaps trying to lead an ascetic way of life for forty days may not be right for us if our motivations are not rooted in God's love.

The months of February and March are quite a bleak time anyway, why then are we so fixated on fasting, abstaining and giving stuff up? Perhaps there is a desire for a 'freeing asceticism' if we can find a way to carry it out.

In the hustle and bustle of consumerism many are now turning to the minimalist approach; de-cluttering and being more simplistic. Modern life is often fraught and hectic and we long to step off the rolling-road and find tranquillity, somewhere to be with others, to be with God.

Abstaining from high-calorie foods and buying-in to the diet industry with its promises of feeling better about oneself, we often find ourselves utilising these supposedly ascetic practices. Many rely on the Internet and have iPads, tablets, smart phones, overtaking our lives, and even when all we want to do is turn them off, we just can't bring ourselves to do it – just in case.

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if true asceticism will lead us to the freedom and prayerfulness that we long for.

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