“You wouldn’t believe who I caught eating ice cream during Great Lent!” (See photo for evidence)
We do seem to get totally focused on food during Great Lent. If asked to explain Great Lent, most of us would say that it is a time of denying ourselves certain foods. All of those who have the “ministry” of policing other people’s plates and all you “label readers” (and you know who you are – indeed I used to be one, too), bear with me here.
“Well Lord, you saw that I didn’t eat any meat this week, so here’s what I’d like you to do for me! After all, I did keep the fast!”
I don’t believe any of us are actually saying something like that (well I certainly have that hope). Fasting during Great Lent is truly about so much more than simply food. In fact, food might be the easiest, or even the least important, part of Great Lent when all is really considered. Some of you may already be saying: “Come on Father, I drive by the hamburger joint every day and it’s killing me to not eat meat!” Well, hear me out before you dismiss this thought. As we continue to seek to walk with Wisdom through our study of the Book of Proverbs, today’s reading points us to an important aspect of Great Lent:
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it” — when you have it with you.” (Proverbs 3:27-28)
Why would doing good for others be part of living in Wisdom? Well just like food may have a stranglehold on our lives, so also money and possessions may be so tightly gripped in our hands that they, too, control us. It is so very easy to begin to think of money and material goods as being “mine”. Someone once said: “You don’t arrive at the Heavenly Gate towing a U-Haul with all your earthly goods.” Everything we have is a gift from God: our time, our family, our job, our bank account, our very life…everything. We should hold these things with an open hand to the Lord, recognizing that they are gifts and not “mine” to hoard.
Later on, in our Lenten Journey, we will read in the Book of Isaiah about some people who fasted from food and thought that God had to bless them because of it. God reminds them that His kind of fasting is not just from food. Here’s what He says to them in Isaiah 58:
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)
To walk with Wisdom includes the giving of alms as a regular part of our lives. During Great Lent we can increase that giving. The Lord finishes up His words in Isaiah 58 with this promise for those who do these things:
“Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’”
So, “What’s on your plate?” Truly, it is much more than just food. “What food is on your plate?” and “What are you doing to help those in need?”. May our plates be “filled” with pleasing our Lord in all things!