Fasting With Pope Francis

by Christine Sine
photo by Joy Lenton

photo by Joy Lenton

post by Christine Sine

This last weekend we celebrate my husband, Tom’s 80th birthday. Some of our friends came from Texas, California, Oregon and British Columbia to join a crowd from here in Seattle. We partied heartily and so as you can imagine I am finding the idea of fasting, which is our theme as we enter the third week since Lent began, a little challenging to think about.


photo by Tom Balke

Yet in many ways there was some serious fasting going on this weekend too. Many of our guests had sacrificed quite a lot to be with us. Some had given up a day’s wages, others had spent a lot on air tickets, and still others gave up days of their time to help cook an amazing meal for 70 people or get creative with our decorations and creative offerings for Tom.

In  an address during Lent in 2015, Pope Francis said:

if we’re going to fast from anything this Lent, Francis suggests that even more than candy or alcohol, we fast from indifference towards others.

I feel that our celebrations this last weekend were an amazing example of this type of fasting. People gave up so much to rejoice with us. Yet together we gained a rich feast.


Tom with our cook Gil George and friend Kim Balke

Feasting and fasting are often intertwined. We give up our personal comforts to help those who lack provision. We give up our indulgences so that everyone can have enough. We give up our freedoms so that others can be liberated.

As God reminds us in Isaiah 58:

What I want in a fast is this: to liberate those tied down and held back by injustice, to lighten the load of those heavily burdened, to free the oppressed and shatter every type of oppression. A fast for Me involves sharing your food with people who have none, giving those who are homeless a space in your home, giving clothes to those who need them, and not neglecting your own family. (Isaiah 58:6-7, The Voice)

True fasting, this kind of fasting is, I think, a feast in disguise, as the quote above, from Joy Lenton’s blog, suggests. The fasting of our personal wants is a real fasting of indifference and it should be shared not just with friends but all around us. The riches we gain are far more nourishing and satisfying than what we “give up”.  Our doing without opens our eyes and ears to appreciate in new ways the abundance of God around us. And the sharing of that abundance brings a wave of delight and joy that is rarely experienced on our own.

Tom and I at 80th celebration

What is Your Response?

Sit quietly, close your eyes and do some reminiscing. Think back over the last couple of years. What situations come to mind that at the time seemed like fasts but were in fact feast in disguise? What occasions can you remember where initially you felt you were giving up something of importance that turned out to be a reaping of abundance instead?

What does this teach you about yourself, about others and about God? Is there a change in your behaviour that God might be asking of you this week in response?

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