Thoughts for the Month

Dear Friends,

‘When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.’ Matthew 6:16

Later this month we will celebrate Ash Wednesday on February 26th, and so begins our journey through Lent. Lent is a real opportunity for us to deepen our faith—if we choose to embrace it. Traditionally we are to try to find more time to pray, to give more, and indeed to fast.  Praying and giving would seem pretty straight forward on the surface, easier things to embrace; however, perhaps fasting is a little more difficult. In our western culture fasting is not culturally a norm, unless we are on some fad diet. However, in the eastern Christian tradition it is well established during the seasons of Lent and Advent. In fact, the Abramic faiths all embrace fasting; it was Muhammad who said, ‘Prayer brings us halfway to God, fasting takes us to the gateway of heaven’.

In the Christian tradition there are many references to fasting in the New Testament—the saints have also had much to say on the subject. St John Chrysostom said, ‘Fasting is the soul’s nourishment’.  As we embrace Lent, perhaps we could find time to fast as part of our Lenten discipline. Not just giving up chocolate, but perhaps, if your health enables you to, do something a little more radical, eat more simply for a day—just rice or vegetables? I do not see being hungry or numbed with a headache as helpful to prayer; a healthier approach will no doubt feed both body and soul!

When it comes to giving, then that is both financial and of ourselves. Saint Mother Teresa said, ‘It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into our giving’.

Finally, when it comes to prayer, then scripture reminds us that ‘The Lord is near to all who call on him’. Psalm 145:18

I pray that we will embrace the opportunities Lent provides, and in so doing deepen our love of the Lord Jesus, and indeed of one another.

Martin

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