Friday, March 11, 2005


The Lenten fast has been a very good and I hope important experience for me. (I have to admit that right after the Primates' meeting, I abandoned it for a few days, when I went into a period of "who cares?" hopelessness; but I've come back to it again. I'm glad about that, because the most solemn period of Lent is approaching.)

I haven't had any other problems keeping the fast, though; I've eaten one smallish meal each day, and other food that in total added up to less than that meal. No meat, and no sweets - except on Sundays, when I can eat a little more also. Today, like all Fridays in Lent, I kept a strict fast: only one meal - no food at all for 24 hours, from last evening after dinner to this. I just ate a small piece of soda bread, and it tasted so sweet and delicious. You gain a definite appreciation for these things you almost never think about here in the wealthy West.

I hadn't realized that I'm normally almost never hungry; that I'm almost always satisfied in a physical sense. It really does make you think much more about people who don't have enough to eat on a daily basis. It's concretely changed my outlook in that way - and it's made me remember at all times that it's Lent, too. It does, as I read earlier this year, "disrupt and disturb the secular order." I really do think fasting (and other disciplines, but this is an obvious one, and something everybody can do) is important for this reason; I'm supposed to be living a religious life, and that should involve disruption and discomfort.

"The Call of the Cross" is a Lenten devotional publication from Episcopal Relief and Development. Today's reading is this:
Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward. - Mark 9:41

When we turn on a faucet, we expect to get clean water. In the developing world, only 50 percent of children have access to clean drinking water. Dirty, unsafe water is responsible for killing millions of children in our world every year. When Jesus said, "Anyone who gives a cup of water...." he was affirming a central truth in scripture. Anyone who does even the smallest act of kindness will find that God honors and values that act of kindness.

I don't know really what an ordinary person can do about this problem, except to give money to try to fix it, and to talk about it like this. I have to remember, always, that people are suffering - especially when I'm lucky enough not to be.

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