LITURGY MATTERS: Lent – Let us hunger together for God!

By Michael McKenna, Archdiocesan Master of Ceremonies

Presenting in the liturgical calendar earlier this year, Lent has snuck up on us. Between Ash Wednesday and sundown on Holy Thursday, Catholics will enter a discipline of intensified prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in preparation for the celebration of Easter.

The Catechism lists fasting as one of the three pillars of penance in the Christian life.  Fasting, prayer and almsgiving express our conversion, respectively towards oneself, God, and neighbour (Catechism, 1434). 

To better understand the significance of the penitential character of fasting in our modern Christian lives, it is quite illuminating to consider the act in the context of Salvation history.

In which case, could the irony be any more delicious that humanity’s ‘fall’ from God’s good grace into sin began with eating, while one of the most powerful spiritual weapons at our disposal is fasting?

When you think about it, God had essentially proclaimed a fast when he instructed Adam and Eve to abstain from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17).

The pair did not eat of that tree because they were hungry, since all of creation was gifted by God to sustain them save for the fruit of that one tree.

Adam ate of the tree having been convinced by Satan that man could as it were live by bread alone. He abandoned faith in a dependence on God to sustain him, in favour of a faith based in the ‘godly’ properties of food.

In Matthew’s Gospel we read, “When He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights, He became hungry” (Mt 4:2). To be hungry is to realise that our human existence is dependent upon something else.

Satan tempted both Adam and Christ to eat as gods, but unlike Adam before him, Christ rebukes Satan saying: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4)

The Lenten discipline of prayer and fasting reminds us that liberated from the dependence on food, on material things, and on the world, we may recover our true spiritual nature and, through Baptism and the Holy Spirit, choose a path of conversion which leads to the promise of eternal life with God.

In teaching us to pray, Jesus invites us to ask the Father to “give us this day our daily bread” (Mt 6:11-15). This Lent may we be reminded of that which truly sustains all life. And may we hunger together for God, advancing along the path of conversion!

Tags: Liturgy