‘Lenten Fasting’

 
On Ash Wednesday, the Christian faithful across the world lift up their faces to be signed with ashes. This sign is meant to remind us both of our mortality and of the promise of new life through repentance. The ashes signal entry into the holy season of Lent, a time of fasting, an opportunity to deprive the body and consequently make room for the Spirit.
 
While fasting from food can be a good practice as an act of discipline – and nothing can be achieved without discipline – I challenge each Jesus Youth to consider another view as we journey this Lenten season. It is as important to control what goes into our mouth as it is to control what comes out of our mouth (Mt 15:11). During this Lent we should consider fasting from what comes out of our mouth.
 
There are four areas we might consider in this kind of fasting. The first is fasting from foul language. The air around us is full of it: in movies, in TV shows, in commercials, in song lyrics, in novels and magazine articles, and in everyday conversation. Almost everyone uses it regardless of their age, education, status, etc. Often such foul language from children, youth and adults is meant to signal sophistication and freedom in this modern world. Using foul, dirty language or telling a smutty joke may make you feel like a big shot. But remember what comes out of your mouth tells what is inside your heart. To my mind, all it signals is poverty of vocabulary and small mind and heart. Certainly, foul language has no place in the life of a disciple of Jesus.
 
The second Lenten practice is to fast from judgments spilling out of our mouth. If not every day, make a sincere effort at least on every Friday of the season, in honour of Jesus’ crucifixion. And so for each Friday of Lent, make no judgements about people: about their motives, their goodness or badness, their social standing, their defects, their clothes, their colour, their jobs, their mistakes… Just see everyone as God’s children, people for whom Christ died, fellow pilgrims.
 
Thirdly, fast from verbal negatives that so readily come from our mouths: the put-downs, the jabs that hurt, the insults, the criticism, the condemnations, the sarcasm, the harmful gossip, the rumours… Again, if it is too much to practice every day of Lent, make it just one day of the week. Preferably Wednesday, as tradition holds that this was the day Judas let the words which betrayed Jesus fall from his mouth.
 
The fourth Lenten practice is to let the word “no” fall more often from our mouth. After all, our “no’s” define our every bit as much as our “yes’s”.  Let Jesus be our model. When Pilate questioned Jesus, he shook his head ‘no’ and refused to answer, for he knew Pilate wasn’t really after the truth. He said ‘no’ to the pain-dulling hyssop offered to him on the cross. He would go all the way for us. Jesus said ‘no’ to turn stones into bread for he did not come to serve himself. On the other hand, when it came to giving bread to others, to the five thousand, he said ‘yes’. So, let us be like Jesus during this journey of Lent. Say ‘no’ to lies, cheating, over-consumption, drugs, premarital sex, pornography… But saying ‘yes’ to truth, words that heal and encourage, to charitable deeds and sharing, to prayer time, to family’s need for your presence and time… Say ‘yes’ to all the six JY pillars.  Say ‘yes’ to Jesus!
 
May God bless us with a grace-filled holy season of Lent.
 
Fr. Bitaju Puthenpurackal, O.SS.T.
Pastor, JYIT