It’s been barely two months since we were feasting at Christmas and New Year, and it is now time to prepare ourselves to fast as Lent approaches. This year it is going to be doubly hard for many people as Lent begins just one day before Chinese New Year. The question that many people are already beginning to ask is, “How do I fast on Ash Wednesday when I have to  attend a reunion dinner?”I will just let the relevant authorities decide on that. However, what occurred in my thoughts as this question was being posed to me is that should not Christmas and Lent be more than just feasting and fasting? Every year we go through this roller coaster ride from season to season, with rituals and rites (some are liturgical while others by convention and family traditions) and sometimes even without taking a pause to see how it affects us.

The question “What are you giving up this Lent?” almost means nothing at times in terms of its effect on our lives. We have become quite accustomed to prayer, fast and abstinence as the tag line at every Lent and not forgetting the constant reminder from the pulpit of the need to go for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Apart from the regular practises, how about trying something different this Lent?

Our lives are revolved on relationships and Aristotle the legendary Greek philosopher rightly said, “Man is by nature a social animal.” Most of us do not live in caves and that is why we need to relate to people for our well-being. But this is an area that many people struggle with. We want our own space and yet we want to interact with people. In the course of our interaction we do step on each other’s toes and sometime relationships are broken over trivial matters.

Lent is a time to restore relationships but sometimes there is an over emphasis on the relationship with God that we ignore the need to restore relationships with the people around us. At Christmas we shower the people we love with gifts but once Christmas is over, we go back to the mundane state of life especially with the people that are closest to us. We forget the importance of many people who make our lives worth living with their everyday “mundane services” and only to remember it on birthdays, special days or when they pass from this world to the next.

Fasting at Lent has to be more than a fast from food, for fasting should also remind us of our own fragility and our need for the other. It is only when we realise that the other is a gift to me, even when things are not going so well,  do we begin to see God in one another: For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen (1 John 4:20).

So here are some suggestions on how you can fast this Lent: Fast from being cold towards someone whom you find difficult to relate with, fast from yelling at children, fast from destroying the environment by wasting water / electricity or littering all over, fast from thinking you are always right, fast from being grumpy all the time or from being a pessimist, fast from not being patient with the elderly and your co-workers, fast from being rude, fast from not appreciating your parent / spouse / child, fast from looking down on the migrant worker… There are more ways to fast at Lent than just from food. So go ahead and make this Lent different and I am sure it will not only touch your life but the lives of the people around you.