You might see countless articles telling you dozens that are better to fast than just chocolate. This is not one of those articles. Who knows… chocolate might be the one thing you need to give up in order to grow in holiness.
1. Whatever Prevents Your Faith from Growing
Each and every one of us is called to a journey of life-long formation. Our faith requires us to grow and effectively prevents us from remaining stagnant. Think about a marriage where the romance has died. It probably died when the husband and wife stopped getting to know one another; stopped pursuing one another. For any real relationship to be alive it must continue to grow and mature; whatever does not continue to grow will surely begin to die. You might say to yourself that reading deep, theological materials isn’t your thing or that you find a lot of the Church’s teachings to be boring or difficult to apply to your own life. Well, I would say that there are certain aspects of the deposit of faith that are an acquired taste but this doesn’t, at all, mean that you shouldn’t acquire that taste. For Lent I would suggest reading the Catechism, start from the beginning. The Catechism is actually arranged in such a way that it begins with God as the topic and expands into ‘How Man Can Know God’ and so on… it really allows the reader to follow a natural progression of understanding when it comes to the teachings of the Church. Secondly, I would suggest that you find a solid, Catholic Bible reading plan. It always helps to have a plan of action. The more popular suggestions will break down the Scriptures into manageable chunks to ensure success with even the most novice reader (like myself).
2. Whatever Keeps You Alone
“It is not good for man to be alone…” This is a truth we hear about at the beginning of Scripture, in the 2nd Chapter of Genesis to be exact. God sees to it that a suitable partner for Adam be created. If we truly understand our faith to be a blossoming relationship with God then it would only make sense that we join together with those who are after a greater good, a common goal, a relationship with God just as we are. Church does that for us, it provides for us a community of believers who come together around the table of the Lord to take and eat together. We are all, in fact, members of the mystical body of Christ. (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27) Being alone is detrimental to our faith. Nothing seeks to keep us alone more than our own sin. Sin is inherently self-seeking and therefore prevents us from seeking the good of others. Sin also blinds us towards the obvious benefits of living in community. This Lent, seeking out the Sacrament of Reconciliation would be, in my opinion, the first step towards communal life. We can’t run free while we are still in chains… right? Secondly, we need to break our isolating tendencies by forcing ourselves into communal situations. Get plugged in to a ministry or a Scripture study group. My personal suggestion? Go on an ACTS retreat!
3. Whatever Stops You from going to Mass
The Mass is, bar none, the most intimate encounter with Christ that you can have on this side of eternity. Why in the heck anyone would skip it is beyond me. Well, I have an Idea. Read Here. The Scriptures tell us to hold our coming together with other believers in high regard, to make it a priority in our lives. (cf. Hebrews 10:25) It is from the Eucharist that our faith originates and it is to the Eucharist that our faith proceeds. Throughout Church history many of our fathers in the faith understood clearly that the Eucharist was the life-blood and the heart of the Church. For Lent this is actually one that will hit home the hardest. We should call ourselves to fast laziness, sporting events, homework, going to work, and whatever else keeps you from Mass on Sundays (or at least the Saturday Vigils). That’s it. The cold, hard truth. Nothing in your life can even begin to compare to the importance of the Mass. I would go as far to say that if Mass isn’t a priority then you may want to ask yourself if God is even a priority. Keep in mind that I do not mean to cast judgment with this one. Friend, I want for you to encounter Christ as often and as intimate as you can and the Eucharist just so happens to be the only way to truly do so.
4. Whatever Kills Your Prayer Life
Doubt, heartache, personal tragedy, sinfulness, laziness, this list can go on and on… There are an infinite number of reasons (excuses) as to why we don’t continually and actively pray. Sometimes in life our faith can be shaken so much that we look at prayer and ask ourselves “what is the point?” Other times we have a superman mentality and assume we don’t need prayer because we can just do it all ourselves. A reason that, for a period of time, kept me from praying was that I felt my prayers were rarely, if ever, answered. I’ve had moments where I prayed and felt completely alone. I know now that even in those moments God was completely in control. So often we are like St. Peter with our prayer habits, we step out on the water in faith then we begin to doubt. Doubt provokes a feeling of sinking or helplessness and we are reminded once again that our God is all-powerful. Praying, in itself is an act of trust; it is a sign of relationship. For Lent, consider fasting whatever keeps you from prayer, whether it is the menial tasks you fill your time with to avoid prayer or just the doubts that don’t allow you to even consider praying.
Lent is meant to be a time of sacrifice. That sacrifice is meant to make us holy; to bring is into closer relationship with Christ and His Church. Lent is one giant leap of faith. Choose to go after Christ and fast whatever keeps you from doing just that.
They (the apostles) devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. – Acts 2:42