Text to Accompany “A Liturgy for Lent”
A Meditation on Lent: FASTING FROM INDIFFERENCE
Sometimes I wonder if Pope Francis is my pastor.
Although I am not Catholic and am a part of a local faith community in Cape Town, I have both warm admiration and multiple moments of personal conviction due to Francis’ grace and humility towards others as Pope, having followed his humble ascension to the Papacy with increasing interest over the past few years. From afar, he seems to understand with unusual clarity – and to live from a sincere heart with great simplicity and equal conviction what walking with Jesus and serving others in His Name looks like, regardless of power or title. And thus, while brainstorming ideas for our Lenten liturgy this year, a 2015 Time magazine article written by Christopher Hale entitled “Pope Francis’ Guide to Lent: What You Should Give Up This Year” began popping up in my Facebook feed again, shared by a few friends whose spiritual maturity and sensitivity to the Spirit’s Voice I trust almost implicitly. Curiosity peaked, here’s what stopped me dead in my tracks, laying the rails for our Lenten journey this year:
“So, if we’re going to fast from anything this Lent, Francis suggests that even more than candy or alcohol, we fast from indifference towards others.
In his annual Lenten message, the pope writes, ‘Indifference to our neighbour and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.’
Describing this phenomenon he calls the globalisation of indifference, Francis writes that ‘whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.’ He continues that, ‘We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.’
But when we fast from this indifference, we can begin to feast on love. In fact, Lent is the perfect time to learn how to love again. Jesus – the great protagonist of this holy season – certainly showed us the way. In him, God descends all the way down to bring everyone up. In his life and ministry, no one is excluded.
‘What are you giving up for Lent?’ It’s a question a lot of people will get these next few days. If you want to change your body, perhaps alcohol and candy is the way to go. But if you want to change your heart, a harder fast is needed. This narrow road is gritty, but it isn’t sterile. It will make room in ourselves to experience a love that can make us whole and set us free.
Now, that’s something worth fasting for”. (Christopher Hale, “Pope Francis’ Guide to Lent: What You Should Give Up This Year”)
Naturally, I am a man of perfect intention and terrible action. I have the most well-laid plans, and the poorest follow-through. I desire to follow Jesus all the way to the Jerusalem cross, but find myself sidetracked before Ieven leave Galilee. My intended thought is complete, but my actual engagement woefully small, if present at all.Francis’ call to journey through Lent ‘fasting from indifference’ violently exposes this self-righteous hypocrisy and ‘well meaning, but lying intention’ in me from the start, forcing me out of my comfortable indifference into realistic engagement with the concerns of those around me, whether relatively minute (My daughter heard another helicopter fly overhead!), more significant, yet relationally distant (A man at the robot has approached my car in need of something; how do I respond with graciousness?), and most intimately central still (How do I listen with empathy to my wife’s heart, no matter how it affects me?). I can remain cold, distant, and indifferent, yet think that I am ‘on track’ in walking with Jesus, or I can slow down, actually listen, and choose to engage my actual real life right in front of me. The choice is entirely mine – and Lent provides us a fresh season to choose empathetic compassion, ‘learning how to love again.’
Written by Chris Kamalski for Lent 2016, “Fasting From Indifference”
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