Susy works in the CAFOD Theology team. Although she hasn’t always looked forward to fasting, this year she is going vegan for Lent. Here she tells us how she thinks fasting for Lent can transform her, and her relationships.
Fasting. The word doesn’t fill most people with joy. I know for me there has often been a slight dread about fasting. It is not something to look forward to, is it? Eating less, maybe giving something up that we enjoy. A sacrifice – surely it will be painful?
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I think though, like anything else, how we view fasting, how we approach it, makes an awful lot of difference to the experience. When I was much younger there was a short time in my life when I fasted on bread and water once a week. I would get splitting headaches and I was always very relieved when the day was over. I saw it as perhaps helping in my relationship with God, but I don’t remember making any connections with those who struggle to have bread and water every day.
Having worked at CAFOD for fifteen years now, I see fasting in a different light. I also have a much more positive attitude towards it – it is actually something I can look forward to! Why? For four main reasons. I feel fasting can help transform me in four areas – in my relationship with God, in my relationship with others, with creation and with myself. Here’s how I see it:
Fasting can transform my relationship with God
If I am in the fortunate position of having food available to me when I am hungry, then choosing to fast reminds me of the abundance which God has given me and I can be grateful for having my ‘daily bread’. It makes me aware of my dependence on God – by God’s grace I have enough to eat.
When I fast by missing a meal I can have more time for prayer. By disturbing a normal routine, I become aware of my spiritual hunger and yearning for God. Or, if I eat a very simple, small meal, it gives me the opportunity to eat mindfully, grateful for each mouthful.
Transforming my relationship with my neighbour through my Lenten fast
When I fast, inevitably I call to mind my brothers and sisters in our country and around the world who are not able to eat regularly, who do not know when they will next eat, who have no choice in what they eat.
The act of fasting can make me more compassionate which will hopefully lead to action – both literally giving food to those who have none or campaigning against systems and structures which deprive people of their most basic needs. In the act of fasting I show my solidarity with those who hunger – by fasting, I can show my hunger and thirst for righteousness’ sake (Matthew 5:6).
Donate the money you save by fasting to the CAFOD Lent Appeal to help those who are not able to eat regularly.
My Lenten fast can transform my relationship with creation
Fasting can also help to heal and restore our relationship with creation. In former times abstaining from meat was traditionally linked to solidarity with the poor, who could seldom afford meat for their meals.
Nowadays, however, I can choose to abstain from animal products because I know the damage which it causes environmentally. Also, if I am fasting on a particular day, I can choose to spend more time in creation, in awe at its diversity and beauty, and once again giving thanks for this wonderful world which has been given to all of us.
Transforming my relationship with myself during Lent
Fasting for me is an opportunity to reflect on the things that I consume habitually and, at times, automatically. It is a chance to slow down, reflect on whether I waste food, whether I eat or drink excessively, whether I share my food willingly. It is an opportunity to ask deeper questions about what I really hunger for and it allows my gaze to be on Jesus and not on the thing or things I feel that ‘I must have’.
When I fast, it gives me the opportunity to slow down, to reflect and to contemplate. It can be genuinely a joyful occasion, an opportunity to be transformed and enriched. I hope you will join me on Family Fast Day – together, let us show our love, solidarity and gratitude.