A new way of looking at Lent
"Join in a kind of fasting that can help change our ‘hearts of stone’ more fully to ‘hearts of flesh.’”
A PBS broadcast of the opening of the most recent Olympic Games in China moved me to look at Lent with new eyes and to see the wisdom of even having such a season. You may remember the pristine beauty and the remarkable, perfectly choreographed elements for which the Olympic opening event drew high praise.
The first scene showed a large, white surface on the floor with the Chinese characters for “harmony” writ large, followed by the five intertwining Olympic circles in connecting movements. Another scene depicted a gifted woman pianist and her piano suspended on a “stage” supported and held in place by hundreds of human hands. The narrator spoke of this as an expression of belief in the one and the many. In this case, the multiple human hands literally lifted up the “one” among them who could offer beauty and music to the world in their name.
Another scene included two thousand karate masters, perfectly synchronized, surrounding a stage where children laughed and played. This message to the viewing world was that older generations surround children with love, energy and beauty in order to further life, love and spirit in the children.
The last visual was a panorama of joy shown on huge screens that lined the immense stadium—a visual of smiling faces of young children from all nations of the world. The entire Olympic opening combined the sight, sound and movement of peace, harmony and communion among the peoples of the world.
Modern image of God’s reign
What does this Olympic opening event have to do with Lent?
We can view the Olympics as a modern-day image of the reign of God. For members of the global community to live in harmony, to notice and appreciate our connection with one another, to support the one with joy, to surround our children with love and dance and positive energy, evidences what is possible among the nations and in all of creation. And yet, if we stand before a globe in this year of 2009 and put a finger on any part of it, the place where our finger touches is likely a place where violence exists, children are hungry and hurting, and war is fought, often in God’s name.
Lent is a time for us to fast, pray and give alms. It is a time for us to engage fully in an effort to diminish the gap between the peace and harmony for which we and God long and the way things are in the world.
This Lent I invite you to join me in a kind of fasting that can help change our “hearts of stone” more fully to “hearts of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). Could this be a way to find the soft place in our hearts and keep calling ourselves to live from that place? Try a fast that has little to do with food:
Fast for awareness
- Fast from a hardness of heart toward someone in your family who is difficult.
- Fast from the refusal to stand in another person’s shoes.
- Fast from yelling at children.
- Fast from aggression toward earth, animals and coworkers.
- Fast from addictions that keep you from being the person God means you to be.
- Fast from thinking you are always right.
- Fast from wearing an angry face.
- Fast from being despondent about not doing as well this Lent as you hoped you would. Little by little, your one heart will grow toward the peace that the world cannot give.
- Fast from not being patient with yourself. Notice when you are not fasting in these ways, and be patient with yourself. Slow down; pause before you act or speak.
This kind of fasting becomes a prayer of awareness. That prayer of awareness becomes almsgiving through which we give the gift of nonviolence, peace and harmony—the gift of a heart of flesh to ourselves and to the universe.
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Wednesday, February, 25, 2009