By Sarah Christmyer
Jesus answered, “It is written: One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”
Forty days in the desert, and Jesus ate nothing.
How did he do that?
I find it hard to fast when my stomach starts to growl. Everything in me yearns for food, and I can’t concentrate. Fasting from just one type of food, instead of going hungry, is almost worse. I give up chocolate, and every carrot I eat in its place shouts to me: I am not what you want.
Jesus may not have eaten food for 40 days in the desert, but he was feasting on the word of God all that time. He must have been. When the devil tempted him to manufacture food from the rock around him, he said, “It is written” (emphasis mine. He knew his stuff!): “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
The bread of God’s word so filled our Lord’s mind it spilled out when he was tempted. It protected him and drove away the Enemy.
Plan your Lenten menu
Maybe that’s the secret. Instead of trying to fill the hole meat leaves with more potatoes or replacing chocolate with carrots, plan meals of scripture throughout the day to help re-focus our longing. Not small, quick snacks that pass through without making a mark, but rich bites, feasted on. Tasted, turned over in the mind. Chewed on. Pondered. Slowly digested and given a chance to enter our souls and nourish us, as good food does.
It’s not too late to make a plan to help you fast the next few weeks. Maybe you’re going strong so far, but it’s only been five days. How will you last for 40? Here are some suggestions:
Here’s how to make and follow it
– Plan ahead, at least one meal a day.
– Set the menu. Will you read the gospel from last Sunday’s mass every day, so it sinks in? The penitential Psalms? A gospel in a month?
– Now, make a kind of grocery list: a reading plan to check off as you go.
– Make it a meal, not a snack. How long do you take when you sit down to dinner? Devote that length of time.
– Don’t rush. Enjoy your food! One passage pored over, thought about, prayed with, and digested can have more impact than a whole chapter that is crammed or grazed.
– Allow the Word to nourish you. Journal with it, and take it through your day. Act on what you heard.
– Review each night before you go to bed, and pray:
Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of your Word! Help me to feast on it this Lent, especially when I long for other things. Make it fruitful in my life and a protection against temptation.
Call to Action
Use the steps above to plan your reading “menu.” Enlist a friend to do the same if you need support!
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Wow!!! Sarah! This is fantastic. What a wonderful, helpful and important lesson. I love it so much – this will stick in my mind forever. Praise God for the wisdom He has given you and thank you for sharing it!!!! Heidi
Heidi, you’re welcome! I’m glad it spoke to you. I’d love to know what you decide to do… And how it goes!
Thank you. My first Lenten season as a Catholic, I was struggling yesterday. Until I read your lesson/message. It made sense to me.
Patricia, I’m glad it helped. I struggled for a number of years as a new Catholic, “getting into” Lent. Now I look forward to it as we ease out of Christmas. I hope this first lenten season will be full of blessings for you.
Sarah, thank you for your inspiring words. I am a 64-year-old cradle catholic but feel as though I am a novice. There is so much to learn and yet I know I need to take the time to ponder as well. I am excited this lent because I believe that God is drawing me closer.
You’re welcome, Mary! There is always more to learn (maybe the first step is realizing that!) I pray God will draw you ever closer, especially as you spend time in his word. Blessings!
Sarah – I love this! Thank you! I plan to feast – what a wonderful time to feast – during these 40 days of fasting!
Yes!! Have a blessed Lent, Alyssa. Thank you!