WASHINGTON (January 15, 2002) -- Christians are called to fast during Lent, and the fast can be not only from food but also from violence and apathy, said Father James Moroney, head of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for the Liturgy.
Father Moroney described penitential practices in a reflection in which he also contrasted the life-giving ashes of Ash Wednesday with the ashes of the dead at Ground Zero and the Pentagon after September 11.
He made his comments in a reflection which is the keystone of the Ash Wednesday/Lent page on the U.S. bishops' Web site: www.usccb.org. The site also includes educational and prayer resources and descriptions of how dioceses from around the country will this year mark Lent, which begins February 13.
"Looking over the ruins of Ground Zero or passing the blackened walls of the Pentagon, we see ashes before our eyes too often these past six months," Father Moroney said. "For some, the ashes conjure up death and darkness and the end of things. The Wednesday we are marked with ashes, however, heralds life and the eternal meaning of our existence."
Father Moroney noted the start of Lent.
On Ash Wednesday, Catholics receive the sign of the cross on their foreheads," he said.
"We are smudged with an ash-laden cross so that each of us might turn from all that is earthly, dark and sinful and return to the Gospel of Life in this Season of Lent."
He explained the significance of fasting and prayer.
"By letting go of the food and pleasures we do not really need, we participate in Christ's self-emptying in becoming man and in dying upon the cross," he said. "We too must empty ourselves of the non-essentials, so that we might cling to the only One we truly need, Christ Jesus, and Him crucified." He listed several forms of fasting.
Fasting From Food
"An empty stomach makes room way deep inside–room for God, room for prayer. Fasting then, does not just empty us out, but provides the space for quiet prayer when first we wake, for sharing with God the burdens of the day at noontime, and for resting in Him as the sun goes down," he said. "Do I pray every morning and noontime and at night? Do I ask God's help in the heat of the day? Do I ask forgiveness for my sins before I sleep and rest in God's care through the night? Do I pray before meals, even in restaurants or at the drive-through? Do I provide an example of prayer for others? Do I pray for those who hurt and offend me, as well as my friends? Do I thank God for all the good things He brings my way and seek His merciful love for my sins?"
Fasting From Sin
"Lent is a time of fasting from sin. When was the last time I went to confession? When was the last time I really looked deep inside and admitted that secret sin? When was the last time I trusted God enough to ask Him to cleanse me from the inside out?" he asked.
Fasting From Ignorance
"Lent is a time of fasting from ignorance as well. It's a time to begin again to read the bible and listen to what God is telling me He wants me to do," he said. "Do I take time to study my faith, read the catechism, hear my bishop and his priests, and seek to truly be a man or woman of the Church?"
Fasting From Violence
Lent is a time to fast from violence and to witness 'the peace the world cannot give,'" he said. "Do I avoid not just the violence of hands, but also the cruel words born of angry hearts, the thoughtless gossip of jealous ambition, and the idle sarcasm which refuses to care?"
Fasting From Apathy
"Lent is a time to fast from the apathy which refuses to use the gifts God has given us," he said. "Can I get involved in parish work in living the Gospel, in advocating the Catholic passion for social justice, in supporting the poor, the widow and the orphan, and in defending the inalienable right to life of even the most defenseless human being?"