Fifth Sunday of Lent
The second of the three pillars of Lent…together with prayer and almsgiving…is, of course, fasting.
Think back a few weeks to the approach of Lent 2021. Most folks, even those who are more “relaxed” about the practice of our faith, at least toyed with the notion of “giving up” something. It’s just what we do. The notion of “fasting” during Lent is engrained in us. It’s part of our Catholic culture. We’re known for it.
Of course, there are some who opt for a “fast” that will self-benefit. They look forward to Lent with the same spirit and enthusiasm that comes with New Year’s resolutions. And there is certainly nothing wrong with losing a few pounds by “fasting” from ice cream during Lent…good for you! Still, the motivation for the Lenten fast should not be to look better. At the heart of this penitential season and the recommended Lenten practices should be the desire for improved spiritual health.
Fasting, prayer, and almsgiving work together to unburden us of the things that make us less than God created us to be. Make no mistake about it, there are very few of us who are totally and completely free of something which, or someone who, has intruded on our free will, threatening our spiritual well-being.
Today’s Gospel inspires us to focus on, and to see the true benefit of “fasting.”
Whoever loves their life loses it,
and whoever hates their lives in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Those appetites and addictions that we have “grown to love” often take control over us. They start to define “our lives in this world.” Some passions we think that we just can’t live without actually threaten our physical well-being. There are other desires that jeopardize our spiritual health. The most lethal and deadliest of habits are very greedy; these things want our minds, our hearts, and our souls.
Lenten fasting is a kind of flexing of our spiritual and emotional muscles. It is an opportunity to use God’s empowering grace to look these things in the eye and to say with conviction:GET BEHIND ME, SATAN!
Tragically, however, even those who have kept a “perfect Lent” often slip and fall as soon as the Easter Season begins. It is not uncommon to regain control, only to lose it again once we enjoy that first taste of Easter candy. And so, the passage from Jeremiah is worth some extra reflection time.
Our First Reading opens with mention of a “new covenant.” The prophet is speaking to the new and intensely intimate relationship that humanity will come to enjoy with God through Jesus Christ. But it might be helpful to zoom in on this concept of a “new deal” and make it personal.
Through Baptism, we become part of this “new covenant.”Lent is a time of restoration of those Baptismal graces we may have lost over the years through poor choices and bad decisions. Although fasting, prayer, and almsgiving enable us to recover our Baptismal dignity, how can we make “the reboot” permanent?
On Easter Sunday, when we profess our faith through the renewal of our Baptismal promises, permit yourself to consciously REJECT all those things that you fasted from (or should have fasted from) during Lent. If you managed to enjoy freedom for 40 days…why not make the freedom Christ has won for us a permanent way of life…until you are part of “everlasting life!”
When the presider asks: DO YOU REJECT SATAN? Let your “I DO” mean “I WILL!” And with the help of God’s grace…YOU WILL!