Today is Maundy Thursday. The church season of Lent is approaching its end. I’ve enjoyed teaching A World Worth Saving: Lenten Spiritual Practices for Action and also hearing from others who have used the book in small groups and as the basis of congregation-wide learning. One premise of the book is that we offer our fasts to God in new ways, beginning with a fast from apathy.
When Easter comes, we may end our traditional seasonal fast; however, we continue on a journey that serves others and seeks justice and strives for healing throughout the world.
In the 5th century Pope Leo the Great spoke about the fast for Advent. His words are equally applicable to the Lenten fast:
What can be more useful than fasting? By that exercise we draw near to God, we make strong stand against the devil, and overcome the sweet enticements of sin….
But since fasting is not the only means to secure health for our souls, let us adorn our fasting with works of mercy. Spend in good deeds what you withdraw from superfluity. Our fast must be turned into a banquet for the poor. Let us devote time and effort to the underprivileged, the widow and the orphan; let us show sympathy to the afflicted and reconcile the estranged; provide lodging for the wanderer and relieve the oppressed; give clothing to the naked and cherish the sick. (from The Church’s Year of Grace, by Pius Parsch, Liturgical Press, 1959)
I hope that those who have read A World Worth Saving find that the book offers ways to partially fulfillment of Pope Leo’s challenge.