By Roxane B. Salonen

 

 

 

“And when you fast,do not look dismal, like the hypocrites.” ~ Matthew 6:16

In high school, the Catholic members of our track team would huddle together for road-trip meals during Lent, compliantly nibbling on our cheese pizzas as the non-Catholics nearby gobbled down their meat-lover pies. 

Several years later, I stood in line at a fast-food joint with fellow college tracksters after an Ash Wednesday meet, sizing up the fish-sandwich options, thinking, “This is dumb.” It suddenly seemed ridiculous that a fish sandwich could bring me closer to Christ’s sacrifice. 

More than the sandwich

My “logic” continued. “If we got the fish thing wrong, what else?” I wondered. And I started down a five-year path of spiritual doubt—all because of one lousy sandwich. 

Thankfully, I was connected to a faith group at our college Newman Center, led by a wise priest who handled my barrage of questions with grace and humility. But soon after marrying my college sweetheart, a Protestant at the time, doubts began coming at me again, pounding like a relentless hailstorm, leaving me filled with uncertainty.

Tester of wills like no other

The Hound of Heaven bit at my heels, however, and I began to see that of all the ways we can align ourselves with Christ’s sacrifice, food, being as practical and necessary as it is, can test our wills with an intensity and immediacy like few other things—especially when our stomachs growl. 

Indeed, when we deny ourselves our most banal enjoyments, heaven, and earth converge, prompting us to seek the One who can feed our depleted bodies and our worn spirits, too. 

If we persist in faith to the end, we’ll someday join the eternal banquet, where our Lord will satiate our souls with his love. And perhaps we’ll realize then how every passed-by burger on earth brought us a moment closer to bliss.  

 

 

Prayer:

Dear Lord, we often fail to understand the Church’s wisdom of what it takes to be formed into your image. As I eat my fish sandwich this Lent and make other small sacrifices, please help me recall how you gave up that last earthly sip of refreshment to allow me to taste your glory someday.

Call to Action:

When you fast this Lent, take some time to meditate on Jesus, thinking about you and the gift you must be to him to have passed on comfort in his final, agonizing moments. Then, offer your lack of feasting for someone you love who is struggling—end by thanking God for his great love for you both.

 

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