In Italian, Lent is quaresima or forty (days). In German, it is Fastenzeit or time for bodily restraint. Our English word comes from an older Anglo-Saxon word for spring—len(c)ten—whence our Lent. Italian tells us how long it will last (with its symbolic overtones). German tells us what to do in that time. But English tells us what is supposed to happen, that is, we are supposed to experience a springtime of faith, a time growth and new life.
The following is often attributed to Pope Francis – not likely according to Fr. Horton and his They Didn’t Say It blog. But nonetheless, it is great spiritual guidance by which to renew one’s Lent.
- 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 love.
- Fast from worries and have trust in God.
- Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
- Fast from pressure and be prayerful.
- Fast from bitterness and fill your hearts with joy. F
- ast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.
- Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
- Fast from words and be silent as you listen.
Pope Francis in a recent Papal Audience talked broadly about the nature of fasting during the Lenten season. It is a good reminder that we are able to “fast” from many things and not necessarily just food. Take a few minutes to watch/listen to the teaching from the Pope.
In most commentaries there are discussions focused on the unity of composition (i.e., were there later editors?), date and purpose of the writing, questions of text preservation (consistency among known copies), underlying theology, and the “Sign of Jonah” from Matthew 12:40. If you are interested in a “deep dive” into some of these topics, any scholarly text will provide lots of details. Let me just provide a few thoughts – not trying to rehearse all the opinions and arguments, but simply offering what makes the most sense to me.