With Lent starting in the middle of February, my thoughts turn to memories of other Lenten seasons. I recall when, as a middle-schooler, I gave up, or fasted from, candy and other sweets. However, although I refrained from eating candy, I did buy some sugary cough drops to snack on—even though I did not have a cough or sore throat. Substitution was the name of that game! It was another example of the letter versus the spirit of the prohibition. I would proudly proclaim that I gave up candy for Lent.
Fasting can include abstaining from an activity as well as from a food group. There are spiritual benefits to derive from depriving oneself of certain pleasures. It is supposed to turn our minds away from worldly pleasures or freedoms so as to focus on the greater, spiritual concerns and endeavors.
This past year, the pandemic has forced me to stop doing many activities I enjoy. It has been almost as if I were fasting from shopping, eating out, and getting together socially with friends and relatives. I certainly did not choose to fast from these activities as a spiritual practice. At first, I did not see a benefit—other than health safety—from staying home so much. If nothing else, I have learned that there is a big difference between what I perceive as burden and as opportunity,