A lot of us are feeling small these days. Insignificant, inconsequential in the face of the pandemic and overwhelming economic distress. And then comes Lent, and this year it somehow feels both irrelevant and trivial to consider doing without chocolate for 40 days.
Fasting is one of the three cornerstones of the season, but we’re all exhausted by a year of giving up so much. Yet it’s possible that we’re partially at fault for that exhaustion, because even as we lost incomes, fellowship, access to the myriad things that were so important to us, we’ve also added in too much. Too much stress. Too much obsession with the news. Too many hours on social media. Too many arguments. Too much conflict.
Pope Francis this year invites us to remember why we’re here. “Fasting,” he writes, “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’: the Son of God our Savior.”
Instead of over-indulging in all the negatives that we’ve come to ingest as easily as once upon a time we indulged in chocolates, the pope has a different suggestion: “In embracing the experience of poverty,” he says, “those who fast make themselves poor with the poor and accumulate the treasure of a love both received and shared.”
There are so many opportunities this year to “embrace the experience of poverty,” as more and more families have gone without, are subsisting on unemployment and food banks and soup kitchens. This year more than any year, we are called to make a difference.