Looking back, my earliest memories around Lent involved conversations and observations I had while sitting at a lunch room table in elementary school. From comparing with some friends what we were giving up for Lent, or explaining why I couldn’t trade for a much desired cosmic brownie, the idea that Lent meant self-sacrifice became deeply ingrained in my faith. Needless to say, as a child Lent was not a time I looked forward to with much enthusiasm. Now, somewhat older and wiser and over half way through my service year, I believe I have a slightly more nuanced understanding of Lent and how to prepare myself for this season.
For instance, though since childhood my appreciation has grown for the spiritual exercise of self-restraint that comes with fasting and giving up some sort of indulgence for 40 days as I once did so begrudgingly, this has redoubled in light of my experience with Amate House. Fasting, as a major practice during lent along with prayer and almsgiving, provides us not only the opportunity to temper our desires and foster self-discipline, but also to live in greater solidarity with those we serve with greater intentionality. In my time serving at Erie Family Health Centers and working to address the social determinants of health that our patients face, I now greatly appreciate the privilege of voluntary fasting, and the ability to meet my health related needs while doing so. Unfortunately for many of our patients, access to healthy foods and sufficient nutritional education remains unattainable. Though in no way does the experiencing of fasting replicate that of our patients, doing so with intentionality and reflection, I hope to foster a greater appreciation for the experiences of our city’s marginalized, as well as a renewed sense of purpose in my work.
In my preparation for Lent this year, as I reflect on what I need to do to more readily follow Christ, I find my anticipation for Lent growing. Already grateful for the opportunity to live my faith through my work, I am looking forward to renew not only my vigor for service and the appreciation of the experiences of those I serve, but also my commitment to making the most out of the rest of the time I have left as an Amate House fellow.