By the time we end our Cravings journey in a few weeks, we will be well into Lent. Hard to believe. And yet, the liturgical calendar seems so perfectly timed for this tribe. We can take what we’ve been talking about here and kick it up a notch, if we so choose, in the weeks ahead. As we delve into Chapter 5: Feast or Famine, we can use the lessons here as a precursor to the Lenten journey that will begin on Ash Wednesday, February 14.
Cravings is about finding middle ground. It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition, where you have to forego favorite foods forever, or starve yourself until a headache sets in. That’s not a long-term prescription for health or happiness. But there is wisdom in the practice of fasting, and the Church gives us a beautiful template for learning how to live a balanced life. Throughout the Church year, there are seasons to fast and to feast, and there is “Ordinary Time,” when we are likely to be walking that middle way.
Whenever Lent rolls around, I suddenly find willpower I don’t have any other time of year. Why is that? Because when I combine a sacrifice — eating in between meals or sweets — with prayer and a deeper, more significant intention, I am able to hold myself to things I’d otherwise shrug off at the first sign of chocolate cake in the office kitchen or a bowl of gelato after dinner. Fasting without prayer is just a diet. Fasting or abstaining with prayer, however, elevates it to something completely different.
From Chapter 5:
The emptiness fasting creates will make us more aware of the injustices in the world and of our own comforts and supposed “needs.” Think of how often we say, “I’m starving.” Or, “I need” a cup of coffee, piece of chocolate, glass of wine, handful of nuts. Fasting helps us begin to distinguish between wants and needs, even when practiced in the most minimal ways.
Can you experiment with fasting or abstaining in some way this week — either giving up something for the entire week or for one day, depending on your age, health and ability? You don’t even have to fast from food. You could fast from Facebook or shopping or TV. Intentionally give something up and offer up the sacrifice for someone else.
A reflection from the end of Chapter 5:
So much of life
is out of balance today.
Too much, too little,
too caught up in the whirlwind.
The world insists we need
more, more, more, more,
pushing us to grab all we can.
But wait. Slow down. Stop.
There is another way.
Only by emptying ourselves out
before God will we find
fullness within ourselves.
HERE’s the link to a story I did on fasting for OSV Newsweekly a while back, in case you’re interested in more on this topic as we prepare for Lent.