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There is still time to fast

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I eye the calendar, seeing how the balance has shifted. We have far more Lenten days behind us than we do ahead of us. I sit with pencil in hand, relishing the yearly ritual of making a serious spring cleaning list. These are usually Holy Week tasks, but as the list grows I resolve to begin a little early. Clutter makes me just a little crazy. I’m eager to purge it from my home. I love the sense of control spring cleaning brings. In a world that seems to grow more unpredictable with every new season, I admit that I relish the sense of power that ordering my environment can bring. I can get a jump on spring cleaning, but what to do with the growing sense that I’ve missed the point this Lent, missed the chance for penances to transform my soul?


Can I bring that same sense of order to my soul? I feel out of sorts. And I know it. This season did not go as planned. There were lots of rather large bumps in the road and, despite not once sitting with an examination of conscience, I was brought up close to see my failings. Contrition is real, and I know that only a few days remain to unite my sufferings with my Savior’s and to let Lent change me.


Can my contrite heart seek the Savior and find Him yet? Are there enough days left to make Lent matter?


Yes. There is still time for fasting to transform my soul. There is time to slip from the chains of bondage — chains of bad habits and reckless emotions — and claim the freedom that comes when fasting yields growth in self-mastery. There is still time to see the gaping hole in my heart and know that the hunger I feel is a hunger for Him.


Fasting — whether from food or from something else that fills me so full that my senses are dulled by a gluttonous stupor — allows me to feel again, to be truly aware of a hunger for grace. I see my sins; fasting helps me to see the habits that laid the foundation for those sins. Fasting leaves a hole where that habit was and lets me choose differently. One of the greatest gifts of fasting is what happens when I choose to give something up and that choice changes a habit. Then, the new habit creates a conversion of character.


Right after Jesus stared into the soul of the Samaritan woman and called out her sins, His disciples returned with food. He declined it. He was as physically hungry as they were, but He had a point to make. Detached from actual bread, He said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work” (Jn 4:34).


Can I separate from whatever my attachments are? Can I truly fast in a way that helps me clearly see, as Jesus did, that I will only truly be filled when I do the will of God, and finish the work He has ordained for me?


The real work of Lent is self-denial, but the truest self-denial is to put aside everything that isn’t God. The truest self-awareness — the most effective examination of conscience — is the one that leaves me with nothing but empty surfaces, nothing but wide-open spaces in my soul. And in those empty spaces, He will pour His grace, feeding me the food I need to go out into this world and do His will and finish His work.


Foss, whose website is takeupandread.org, is a freelance writer from Northern Virginia.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018