Western Morning News (Saturday)

The Pope’s wise words about Lent reach out way beyond the faith community

- Malc’ Halliday is a retired Baptist Minister – weekendtho­ught@aol.com

TRADITIONA­LLY, the season of Lent in the church was a period of fasting. People went without rich foods and ate more simply. This, it was hoped, would allow more time for contemplat­ion and prayer. Hence the origins of Shrove Tuesday, when there would be one final day of feasting before the fasting began.

More recently, there has been a shift in emphasis, both within the church and outside. People have thought not so much about what they can give up but what they can contribute. In one simple example, a young friend of mine (he’s at primary school) is going out each day to run across the Tamar Bridge (and back again), asking friends and family in turn to donate to a local charity that serves the homeless. So it is that, for many, Lent has come to be filled with thoughts not so much of “what can I do without” as “what can I do so that lives of others might be enriched and changed?”

There can, of course, be benefit on both sides. In the case of my young pal, the homeless will receive the help the money raised will provide and my friend will be a little fitter.

It seems that there is value in both turning away from something and turning towards help and care for others. Pope Francis embodied both aspects of Lent (the traditiona­l and the modern) in some words he issued recently. If you need something to motivate and inspire you over the next month or so, as Lent continues, you could do worse than reflect on these words.

“Fast from hurting words and say kind words. Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude. Fast from anger and be filled with patience.

Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope. Fast from worries and trust in God. Fast from complaints and contemplat­e simplicity. Fast from pressures and be prayerful. Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy. Fast from selfishnes­s and be compassion­ate to others. Fast from grudges and be reconciled. Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.”

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