What Are You Giving Up for Lent?
By John Parsons
What are you giving up for Lent? How about indifference?
Growing up, a common question this time of year was “What are you giving up for Lent?” Not being Catholic, my answer was usually “nothing.” However the usual answer would be cookies, sweets, candy, etc. I learned that giving something up for 40 days represented a focus on Jesus’ suffering and a mindfulness of the Easter Day to come. Jesus fought off the devil’s lies and we fight off our cravings. But when Easter arrives, we dig in to our chocolate bunny.
So, if we’re going to fast from anything this Lent, Pope Francis suggests that even more than candy, we fast from indifference towards others. In his annual Lenten message, the pope writes, “Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”
Describing this phenomenon he calls the globalization of indifference, Francis writes that “whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.” He continues that, “We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”
Common Ground is one of the many ministries at Foothills that takes the responsibility head on. Through our workings with the schools in Spring Valley we learn of families in need. Many times the need is temporary, and sometimes it’s situational. We respond as best we can. We learned that during the Christmas and Easter breaks from school, children from poverty missed out on breakfast and lunch usually provided by a Federal nutrition program. Common Ground, through its volunteers at Foothills, Santa Sophia Catholic Church, and Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, came up with a plan to offset this hardship on families already beset with numerous issues due to poverty. The Feeding Families project began four years ago and actually grew from our Thanksgiving turkey dinner drive.
This Easter, Common Ground is providing a week’s worth of fresh, nutritional food for over 100 families from five different school communities. The food boxes include bread, tortillas, eggs, tuna, beans, rice, cereal, carrots, celery, potatoes, onions, oranges, lemons, apples, peanut butter, cheese, cookies, and rosemary. The families are thrilled to receive real food. We also provide some recipes to go along with the boxed food. As Chair of Common Ground I wish to thank you all who have donated time, money, and prayers to our efforts. As volunteer Leslie Huffaker shared with me as she spoke about distributing the food, “One time a lady turned at the doorway and mouthed a "thank you!" that has stayed with me forever!
“What are you giving up for Lent?” It’s a question a lot of people will get this time of year. If you want to change your body, perhaps candy is the way to go. But if you want to change your heart, a real look at our neighbor’s pain is required. It will make room in ourselves to experience a love that can make us whole and set us free.
Now that’s something worth fasting for.