The words Lent and romance typically don’t go together.
Lent brings to mind drudgery, sacrifice, and slogging through the dreary days of March without our favorite treats. What’s romantic about that? Sure, we know we’re supposed to give up something for Lent—“It’s a good thing to do”—but for many of us, the whole season feels like one long “No”.
At its essence, however, Lent is all about love. It’s about creating more space in our hearts to hear God’s voice. It’s a time for re-kindling devotion to the Lord, so that we ardently say “Yes” to Him more in our lives.
And one of the best ways we can do that is through fasting.
Fasting: Discovering The ‘Deep Caverns’ of Your Soul
But don’t think fasting is just about “giving something up.” The heart of fasting is found in Jesus’ response to the devil’s first temptation in the wilderness. Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone.” When we abstain a bit from the enjoyments of this world, we become more in touch with a deeper hunger in our souls that no food, drink or pleasure in this world can satisfy: our hunger and thirst for God.
St. John of the Cross taught that the soul has deep caverns which only the infinite God can fill. Yet when we feed our stomach whenever it’s hungry, busy ourselves with constant activity, and amuse ourselves on screens at every spare moment, we not only become slaves to our appetites. We are distracted from our heart’s deepest longing, which is for God.
Certainly, food, drink, activity, entertainments and sex are not bad. But they can never fill us. No matter how much savory food we eat, how much money we make, how many “likes” we receive, or how much sex we have, we are constantly longing for something more. One more bite, one more drink, one more click won’t give us the fulfillment we seek. The deep caverns of our soul long to be filled, but, as St. John of the Cross explained, “anything less than the infinite fails to fill them.”
Stepping back and abstaining from certain enjoyments in life helps free us from being enslaved to them and gives God room to draw out our deeper desire for Him. It reminds us of the profound truth St. Augustine expressed in his famous prayer to God, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You O God.”
Try Fasting a Bit from Media
But fasting is not only about food. In the Catholic tradition, a similar pursuit of moderation has been applied to other things in life that aren’t necessary, such as conversation, rest, media and entertainment. As one ancient hymn for the Lenten liturgy expressed, “Let us use sparingly words, food and drink, sleep and amusements. May we be more alert in the custody of our senses.”
Pope Francis and Pope Benedict have encouraged us to consider limiting our use of the internet, television and social media during Lent. Faced with constant noise and visual distraction—incessant beeps, vibrations, images and updates—it’s hard for us to truly encounter God and the people God has placed in our lives. Fasting from various forms of media can help cultivate more silence in our lives so that we can hear God and see the people right around us.
As Blessed Mother Teresa once said, “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature — trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.”