Pope Francis has invited everyone to make the 2nd of March, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, a day of fasting for peace. He actually asks for us to devote our time to “intensely” praying and fasting on that day. So, what’s that about? You may well ask! During the 40 days of Lent as we await and prepare ourselves for the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, we are expected to pray, fast and, “give alms.” That last one should just be thought of as “be generous.” Generous with your money, yes. But if you don’t have a lot of money to spare, it can also mean giving of your time, your energy. It can mean extra activities for the wellbeing of others when you would rather be doing something else. It’s all about sacrifice.
Fasting, almsgiving and prayer are not about ‘making God happy.’ We do these things to make room for God in our hearts, to focus on God and the gifts we receive daily, to give of ourselves to others. This is what Jesus did. He gave of Himself to the point of death. We must recall that, be grateful for it, and always follow the Leader! Our deprivation allows us to focus on the yearning we truly should have for the Giver of all gifts, not on what we can’t have for a time. It brings us into solidarity with those who never have enough. These Lenten disciplines should lead us to greater generosity in remembering and caring for the ‘least of these.’ As Jesus informs us, when you do acts of charity (that means love) for them, you are caring for Him. Very cool. It could be argued that these sacrifices are cause for rejoicing.
And this upcoming Wednesday, Pope Francis is thinking of the Ukrainian people and the Russian military who have invaded there. This fasting and praying day is about begging for peace. And not the ordinary peace that means lack of conflict, but the supernatural peace of Christ that passes all understanding. This peace request is about changing hearts, it’s about conversion and repentance. That means sorrow for our transgressions against others. And vowing to never do anything like that again. Tall order? You bet. So that’s why we must pray and fast intensely. Another word might be mindfully or intentionally. These are not half hearted prayers said as we drift off to sleep or skipping a meal because we know we eat more than we should every day anyway so it could only help (us). This is about selflessness for the good of someone else. And actually a lot of someones.
Let us fast, pray, and give joyfully. Easter Sunday is coming!