It is several years since I came across the list below on Fasting/Feasting, describing a different type of fasting during Lent. It still makes a great deal of sense to me.
What we feed in ourselves grows strong, for better or worse. We can be unaware of the powerful impact our habitual way of thinking has on ourselves and others. Authentic religion brings about inner transformation. We can focus on the inessentials, the externals while the Lord looks to the heart.
In the Franciscan story we read that Gordan of Giano was a novice at the Pentecost Chapter held in the woods below Assisi in 1221. Several thousand friars had come together. Gordan tells us that Francis went among them collecting all their instruments of penance, hair shirts, corded ropes, whatever. He did this for two reasons. Firstly, he did not want his brothers in their fervour to overdo their bodily penances. But especially Francis realised that physical self-denial can simply inflate one’s spiritual pride. It is a danger warned of by Christ in his parable: “The Pharisee lifted his eyes to heaven and prayed: I thank you Lord that I am not like the rest of men. I fast twice a week…”
It is easier to give up chocolate than unkind words.
It is easier to increase our devotions than our spirit of gratitude.
It is easier to abstain from food than from bitterness.
So this list is not simply a Lenten exercise but a programme for life, for daily living in grace and generosity. It goes straight to the core of the Gospel: the renewal of our hearts and minds.
FAST from judging others; FEAST on the Christ within them.
FAST from emphasis on differences; FEAST on the unity of life.
FAST from apparent darkness; FEAST on the reality of light.
FAST from thoughts of illness; FEAST on the healing power of God.
FAST from words that pollute; FEAST on phrases that purify.
FAST from discontent; FEAST on gratitude.
FAST from anger; FEAST on patience.
FAST from pessimism; FEAST on optimism.
FAST from worry; FEAST on trust in God.
FAST from complaining; FEAST on appreciation.
FAST from negatives; FEAST on affirmatives.
FAST from unrelenting pressures; FEAST on unceasing prayer.
FAST from hostility; FEAST on non-resistance.
FAST from bitterness; FEAST on forgiveness.
FAST from self-centredness; FEAST on compassion for others.
FAST from personal anxiety; FEAST on eternal Truth.
FAST from discouragement; FEAST on hope.
FAST from facts that depress; FEAST on verities that uplift.
FAST from lethargy; FEAST on enthusiasm.
FAST from suspicion; FEAST on truth.
FAST from thoughts that weaken; FEAST on promises that inspire.
FAST from shadows of sorrow; FEAST on the sunlight of serenity.
FAST from idle gossip; FEAST on purposeful silence.
FAST from problems that overwhelm; FEAST on prayer that under girds.