Tuesday, February 16, 2010
On the swiss Jura peasant farm, our mother went to church and gave us Kids, a few ashes she got from the priest to put on our head and it was a gentle pious form of fun for us! We knew our lunch would be macaronis with grated cheese and an « oeuf au miroir » each. Plus spinach and that was that.
In the Swiss Sisters House it was more complicated, solemn imposition of ashes on our veil and prayers. As to fasting, the priests instructed us about « fasting in spirit » letting go of our affection for home, parents and relatives. I didn't like that.
In our African Mission, Ash Wednesday wasn't terribly different from other days as far as food, comfort were concerned. As for affection and feeling, we lived day by day what we had and what we didn't have. Like the township people around us, we had modest food, we ate less and when there was more food, we really could enjoy a square meal no matter when! The poor do just that. We couldn't capitalize on food unless it was dry food like flour and mealie meal. Fridges were few and far between and when there were any around, we were not sure that electricity would be working non stop.
Just to say that fasting can be more natural when we are reasonable, normally poor than when you refrain from eating because you want to loose some weight or because the Church says so. So it's rather confusing to come back from Africa's simplicity to European obeying rules of fasting without having to feel hungry anyway.
But Oh! I remember well our singing;
« Lord, for tomorrow and its needs I do not pray; Keep me, my God, from stain of sin just for today. Help me to labor earnestly and duly pray; Let me be kind in word and deed, Father, today. »
Hundred of young students sang in african harmony, spontaneous, unwritten, just springing from the very depth of our collective soul!
And Oh!, with Martin Luther King in the Spirit of Jesus during his « Lenten and fasting life in Palestine » even up to today: "We shall over come some day, to day, I do believe it! " It is so natural to fast, when you are in real solidarity with the poor, that you are not even aware that you're fasting!
And fasting means sharing: « Let us break bread together on our knees » . Break and share our daily bread at table allows us to break and share the bread of life in the eucharist! What a profound eucharistic theology of the street people of God!
During this fasting season, month in and month out, life was teaching me the Good News that I thought I had to bring to the poor. Just the opposite happened: the poor taught me the Gospel of Christ. And we grew together, even up to now, along the road to conversion.
For fasting means sharing beyond and before all praying! Sharing and fasting is praying in the most authentic manner a man can do... and listen to the call for justice at our doorsteps and far beyond:
"What good are your tears?
They will not spare the dying their anguish.
What good is your concern
to a child sick of living, waiting to perish?
What good, the warm benevolence of tears
What help, the eloquence of prayers,
or a pleasant benediction?Before this day is gone,
how many more will die
with bellies swollen, wasted limbs,
and eyes too parched to cry?" (Michael R. Burch)
So dear God, be my inspiration and my stength to fast with those who have no choice but fast from birth to death!