Lenten Fasting or Feasting?

WeeklyMessageBy: Marcellino D’Ambrosio, Ph.D
Third Sunday of Lent
March 3, 2013 


Some think Lent is a time for fasting. I see it as a time of feasting.

I come to this conclusion based on the story of the fig tree in Luke 13. Three years without bearing fruit. What could be the problem? The owner figures that it is simply a dud and wants to cut it down. The vinedresser, a little more in touch with nature, comes to a different conclusion. Maybe all that is needed to turn things around is a bit of fertilizer

As we look at Christians in America, we have to be honest. A full 82% of us say we are Christians. So where’s the fruit? We’re certainly feeding ourselves often enough, with about 67% of us overweight. Obviously what we’re consuming is not quite the right nourishment to produce the desired results.

So Lent is a time to examine our diet and make some changes. First, let’s cut the junk food from the diet so we are not so bloated. It could be the chips, fries, burgers, and cokes that drain our pocketbooks and make us lethargic. Or it could be too many hours of radio, TV, and the web which fill our heads with so much noise that we can’t sit still, quiet down and listen to God. Let’s turn it all off for a while.

Yes, this is fasting. But the goal is to save our appetite so that we can feast on other things such as the Word of God. When’s the last time you sat down and read an entire book of the bible, from start to finish? (If not all in one sitting, over the course of a few days). Exodus makes for a good Lenten read, since I Cor 10 tells us that Israel’s odyssey was for our sake, to provide an example. When was the last time you identified a short, poignant Bible text and memorized it, repeating it daily, even several times a day, meditating on it, applying it to various aspects of your life?

How about the Eucharist, the greatest nourishment of all? Lent is a great time to go more often, even daily. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass is like stimulating the appetite before the meal (aperitif) or taking time to digest it afterwards (digestif). Either way, adoration helps us derive more benefit from our Eucharistic feast.

Then there is the time we devote to entertainment. Could we not redirect some of those hours to entertainment that nourishes our spiritual life? Mel Gibson’s film on the Lord’s passion was released on Ash Wednesday, 2004 for a reason. It is offered as a Lenten meditation to help us understand the shocking consequences of sin and the astounding Love that lays down his life for his friends. Get some folks together and watch this powerful film on DVD. If you fear the violence of The Passion of the Christ would be too much for you, rent Franco Zeffirili’s “Jesus of Nazareth” and watch it with family and friends. If you prefer books, read the life of a saint or the provocative religious fiction of an author such as C.S. Lewis.

Finally, one of the most spiritually nourishing and energizing experiences of all is giving of ourselves. We call it almsgiving. It is in giving that we receive, says the Prayer of St. Francis. If we save money from fasting, let’s give it away. There are the corporal works of mercy such as feeding the hungry. Then there are the spiritual works of mercy, such as feeding the spiritually hungry, the millions of inactive and nominal Christians and unchurched people that starve to death for lack of the Word of God. Soup kitchens and evangelization ministries both need our support.

Prayer. Fasting. Almsgiving. Three inter-related fertilizers to help the barren fig tree bear fruit. But keep in mind the owner’s directive– fertilize it for a year, and if we see no results, fetch the axe. So no more excuses. No more procrastinating. Let’s vow to make this Lent count. There may not be another.


Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
March 3, 2013

Third Sunday of Lent
The gospel passage refers to two recent tragedies that were on people’s minds. Pilate had ordered the massacre of some Galileans who had come to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices in the temple. And eighteen people had been killed when a tower at Siloam fell on them. Jesus comments that the victims of these tragedies were no greater sinners than other people were. He then says: “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did.” Then he tells them the parable about the person who had planted a fig tree that did not bear any fruit. When the owner ordered it to be cut down, the gardener asked for another year of cultivation to see if the fig tree would finally bear fruit before it was cut down.

3rd Lent: Bear Fruit Now!
Today, I’m going to start by talking about procrastination. Actually, I was going to talk about this last week, but I put it off. Some people are world class procrastinators. They even have their own club. The club hasn’t met yet, but they are planning on it.

Touching the Hand of God in the Darkness of the World
Pope Benedict XVI has written and spoken countless words of wisdom during his eight years as Pope as well as during the prior decades when he served as a priest, a bishop, and a cardinal. His keen intellect repeatedly elucidates the reasonableness of faith. True to his scholarly roots, he always proclaims the faith down a path of logic. For years I have devoured this clear and unambiguous teaching.
Yet, while speaking at the close of the Lenten spiritual exercises, he uttered a sentence that surpassed his intellectual exegesis and reduced me to tears because of its sheer beauty:


Special Prayer for Pope Benedict XVI

The Cardinal Newman Society’s chaplain prepared the following prayer for Pope Benedict XVI. We are thankful for the Pope’s ministry and ask God that he may be blessed in retirement. We encourage all Cardinal Newman Society members and others to join us in praying for Pope Benedict XVI.

12 Interesting Facts about Benedicts Retirement Status
Life after the Papacy. A very rare event. The blogosphere and Twitter-land have been buzzing with information true and false about Pope Benedict’s status and plans for retirement. Here are 12 facts that I was able to verify about his name, titles, clothing, accommodations, and other unusual circumstances:

Peter and the Papacy Part 1
Whenever there is a change in the Papacy this gives us an opportunity to share our faith but we usually have to defend our faith at this time as well. The Papacy in the minds of common folk is thought of as a relic from medieval times when the Pope took over real Christianity and made it a political power. What does the Bible say?

The Bible says two things: First that Peter had a special role in the government of the Church and Second that this role would continue on through those who succeeded him.

Benedict XVI, Catechism, and the Hope of Heaven
I have a first edition English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in hardcover. Ever since my great awakening to my Catholic faith in my teen years, I’ve been reading about our faith and taking theology classes when I could. So in 1992, when I heard that the Catholic Church was putting out a new catechism, the theology geek in me bought a copy when the English translation arrived in 1994.

Within the first seventy pages or so, I was hooked. I had no idea who was responsible for what I was reading, but the clarity of the teaching grabbed me.

What is a Cardinal? The Role of the College of Cardinals in History and Today
Now that attention shifts to the College of Cardinals, it might be good to spend a brief time reflecting on what a Cardinal is and how the College of Cardinals functions. Perhaps it is good to start with a little history and then describe the present realities.

Rome’s Year of Faith
If you’re planning on visiting Rome during this Year of Faith, your first port of call should be the website of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi (ORP), the pilgrimage office of the Vicariate of Rome.
The office, which is also part of the Holy See, is providing four special initiatives to visiting pilgrims, each aimed at enriching people’s faith and enabling them to grow closer to God.

Letter to Parents about Baptism

Dear Parents Who Haven’t Baptized Their Children,
I’ve been speaking to your parent/grandparent/relative/friend over the past few weeks in the lead up to, and at, my son’s baptism. They made a comment in conversation that they wished you would baptize your child and that they were worried about it. Now I’m sure you get comments from them all the time and that every man and his dog wants to have a say in your parenting, but as a young parent I want you to know a bit more about baptism.

Who Said This Amazing Pro-Catholic Quote?
I was one of the two or three people who stumbled onto the Anthony Edwards show “Zero Hour.” It doesn’t look particularly good but it held my interest for a few minutes. But while I was watching, they mentioned this quote and I was stunned to hear it on national television and then very surprised about who said it.

It’s no  t very often one hears praise for the Church from the media, especially for their actions during World War II. So I’m pretty grateful.
Read it and guess who said it:

During the Papal Interregnum, It’s Time to Embrace the Realitry of Mystery
A very long time ago (or so it seems from my end), every title of the posts in this space were ledes to an exposition upon the statement “Why I Am Catholic.” The titles themselves were basically one line answers to the statement all in themselves. I can’t promise that they will always be like that from now on. But nowadays I do find I yearn to return to this practice. It is something that I believe I am called to do.

Natural Law and Bearing False Witness

8 Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor. (5:20)
The Eighth Commandment is often misunderstood. Bearing false witness isn’t lying per se, but lying to get someone in trouble—especially in a judicial context, where one is offering evidence. A presupposition of the Eighth Commandment, then, is that some sort of provision has been made for public justice. No people in the world lives without some such customs. The chieftain of the smallest tribe is expected to hear disputes and judge justly. Like marriage and family, the office of judge would seem to be a spontaneous and natural human institution. The fundamental act of government is not legislation, but judgment.

Forsake Not the Discipline
“Forsake not the discipline” These words are reported as among the very first and very last teachings of St. Antony of the Desert by his spiritual son, St. Athanasius. The Christian life is not something we master – but it does give us everything we need to master ourselves in the new and unrepeatable circumstances each day, each moment, brings. Every day we must choose to begin to live the Christian life as if we were making a fresh new beginning, as if up to this present moment I had not yet begun to live out my baptismal promises. To forsake not the discipline right here and right now means to make a new beginning once again – in very important ways, our faith is all about this new beginning.

Purgatory Part 2: Salvation, Sanctification and Atonement
“The doctrine [of purgatory] can be stated briefly. Purgatory is a state of purification, where the soul that has fully repented of its sins but has not fully expiated them has removed from itself the last elements of uncleanliness. In purgatory all remaining love of self is transformed into love love of God. At death one’s soul goes to heaven, if it is completely fit for heaven; to purgatory, if it is not quite fit for heaven, but not worthy of condemnation; or to hell, if it is completely unfit for heaven. Purgatory is a temporary state. Everyone who enters it will get to heaven, and, after the last soul leaves purgatory for heaven, purgatory will cease to exist. There will remain only heaven and hell.” (Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism)

Mercy’s Power
“Mercy is for the weak!”
As a kid, I always found this line from Karate Kid to be hilarious. Maybe it was the delivery or the context, but it always had me roaring. Years later, the scene is still funny, but now I find the general attitude it embodies to be laughable as well. One can find many people who echo this sentiment, “Mercy is for the weak,” but I doubt they have ever thought about what mercy really is.

You Were Not Made for Comfort
Theres been a quote of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s that I’ve seen circulating in social media in recent weeks:
“The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort; you were made for greatness.”

Comfort (or comfortability, or being comfortable) is a sense of physical or psychological ease, often characterized as a lack of hardship.

Five Ways to Fast (That Don’t Involve Food)
For medical reasons, some members of the Fenelon Clan are unable to precisely follow the Church’s precept to fast during Lent. Because of our conditions, we could receive dispensation from fasting altogether, but to us, that seems like the easy way out. We almost feel as if we’re cheating. So, we fast to the measure that we’re able. Fasting is an important factor in conversion, and Lent is all about conversion, so why would we want to miss out on that? Consider what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about it:

Understanding the Stages of Spiritual Starvation in the West
One of the ways of describing our longing for God is hunger. I suppose, in America and the affluent west most of us have never known real hunger. We may grumble when we miss a meal, or there is an occasional fast or diet. But we don’t know the real hunger. Imagine not actually knowing when or where your next meal would be. Most of us speak causally about “making room for dessert” and “not spoiling our meal.”


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