In the last blog post, I looked at some of the reasons that we are called to fast during the season of Lent. In this post, I will look at how fasting increases our freedom.
Two of our most valuable resources are time and money. No matter how much we have, it never seems like enough. But fasting from little pleasures actually frees up time and money. If you aren’t watching television or if you limit your use of social media, you will find yourself with more time than you might expect. Similarly, skipping the fancy coffee every morning will leave a surprising amount of money in your wallet.
But what’s the point? Is that all Lent is: an exercise in time and money management? Of course not! What we do with the time and money we save is what makes it Lenten fasting (as opposed to saving for vacation). You see, Lenten fasting is closely tied to the other two penitential practices: almsgiving and prayer. The money that we save by denying ourselves should be given as alms — donated to a worthy cause. Similarly, the time we free up might be committed to volunteering in the parish or with a charity or simply by performing small acts of kindness (e.g., visiting a sick neighbor or cleaning up trash in the park). At least some of the time should be dedicated to prayer — a nightly examen, spiritual reading, making the Stations of the Cross, etc.
By engaging in the traditional practices of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, we can grow closer to God and neighbor, building up the common good.