Hey guys! My name is Brian. I am your fearless blog leader Erin’s husband. I’m guest posting today and I’m very excited about that. This is my second time doing this, the first being a post on one of the Gospels during Advent. This time around I’ll be talking about something a little more specific–why we as Catholics do not fast during Sundays in Lent.
Fasting On Sundays: To Fast or Not to Fast?
We all know about it. It’s Lent, you’ve been drudging through a long week of penitence and things are really starting to get hard. Then comes Sunday–what a glorious day! You finally get to indulge in the chocolate bar you’ve been pining for all week. It’s the day every week that we can lift our fast temporarily and pig out on whatever we’ve given up.
You see, gluttony is one of the very common extremes that we see when dealing with this church teaching. I’ll admit, I’ve fallen to it several times myself. I’m a sinner, I need to repent, and I’m working on it. We all are.
On the opposite side of this spectrum, you have the overachievers–the Catholics who think they are doing right in continuing their fasts on Sundays and therefore offering up even more sacrifice in their Lenten practices.
Here’s the deal though, they are both actually wrong. Let me explain.
Let’s start with the latter. Fasting on Sundays is actually against what the Church teaches. We are specifically told not to fast on Sunday. Why? It’s the Lord’s Day. We are told to rest and relax. To take a break from fasting and from work. To spend a calm day in prayer and reflection without any sort of penance, fasting, or mortification. God understands that we are only human and breaking bad habits is difficult. We need to learn to appreciate things for what they are, gifts from God, but to learn not to abuse them as well. It’s a vital balance that we must uphold.
Now you say, okay Brian, so does that mean I get to slack off and totally go crazy eating all the chocolate and drinking all soda at my local supermarket? No, not at all. In fact, that would be stealing. But, more pertinent to this conversation, gluttony folks, gluttony. It’s one of those seven deadly sin things we’re supposed to steer clear of.
Okay seems simple enough, I should suspend my fasts temporarily for Sundays and I should not overdo it. Yes, that’s all you need to do really. Well, that and be sure to spend some time in prayer in addition to attending Mass of course because well, we’re Catholics and that’s what we do because Mass is pretty much amazing and SUPER good for us.
Delving a Little Deeper: What to Give up For Lent?
First, a disclaimer: I am not a theologian. I am not infallible. And this is not church theology. These are just some of the thoughts I have gathered being a practicing Catholic, participating in Lenten traditions over the past 24 years.
I think that we need to be very intentional with what we “give up” for Lent. We need to be very clear about this. The devil can turn the most beautiful and holy things upside down and use them against us if we let him. We do NOT give up sin for Lent. We shouldn’t be “giving up” things that we already shouldn’t be doing, things that are bad for us. We don’t give up immoralities. Those are things we should be constantly exiling from our lives through the cleansing grace of the confessional–yet another great thing you can do this Lent to work on some solid personal growth.
Jesus is all about personal growth, as long as it’s growth that’s good for us. And He knows exactly what is good for us. People often confuse the turning away from sin and repentance aspect of Lent with the sacrifice of what you give up/fast from. They are two separate things. We do NOT give up or fast from sin. Sin is something that we should fight extra hard against and be more aware of during Lent–and all the time, really. Things that we give up or fast from should be things that are not evil in nature but are good things that we may have been abusing or things that may be constant sources of gluttony in our lives. Other things you can give up for Lent would be things that we may idolize and put before God. These are all ways that the evil one can take hold of something originally meant as good and use it by turning and twisting it to further his cause.
Something I ask myself when I decide what to give up for Lent. What do I do instead of prayer? What has taken up the majority of my free time and has taken precedence over that intimate time I should be spending conversing with our Lord?
Something else to consider are things that may be altering you in a negative way, even subconsciously. For example, sometimes when I’m getting too into a video game, I’m a little snappy towards Erin if she tries to talk to me while I’m playing. That’s a good sign that I am placing a higher value on the game than other things (e.g. my wife and what she has to say). This is a good indicator that I am being enslaved by something that I should have dominion over. Lent is a time of mastering one’s self and if something is getting in the way of that or impeding the growth of a certain virtue, then give it up so that you can strive for a mastery over it in your quest in balancing your use of it.
What to take from this? Hey, if you’ve given up alcohol for Lent, have a beer on Sunday and then pray the Divine Office. If you’ve given up video games and Netflix like I have, watch a show and play some Super Smash Bros with your pals, and then ask them to pray a Rosary with you. Just don’t overdo it. All of these things are good things intended for good purposes and created by God. It’s just that sometimes we let the devil chain us to them and use them as evil tools so that we forget that connection we have with our Creator. I think Augustine put it perfectly in this quote:
“Evil is not a created thing, but spoiled goodness made possible by the free moral agency of rational creatures. Evil is not something present, but something missing, a privation.”
I love that quote and I believe it to be truth. There is no true evil in this world, only perversions of good. Let’s not let the devil pervert these wonderful gifts from God into something lesser. They are meant to glorify Him and to build His Kingdom. Love them because God gave them to us. Don’t love them more than their Creator. Love the Creator in the gift. Use the gift to glorify Him.
Brian Rebar is a student at Eastern Washington University, where he is studying Spanish with a minor in music. He hopes to one day be an interpreter/translator and be fluent in Spanish, Italian, and several other languages. Brian enjoys playing video games, watching anime, and is an accomplished guitar player and singer/songwriter.