Lent begins tomorrow. During this time of the liturgical year, we imitate Our Savior who fasted for 40 days in the desert by taking small steps of self-sacrifice and denial, but also by performing works of charity and piety.
To the outsider, Lenten practices may seem strange and masochistic, but as Catholics, we know why we fast and abstain and devote our time to prayer and reflection: so that we can cleanse ourselves of selfishness and vices in order to prepare our hearts for the Lord’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.
In his Lenten Message for 2015, Pope Francis reminded the faithful that “Lent is a time of renewal for the whole Church, for each community and every believer.” This is a simple, but important message. Not only is Lent a time of renewal and repentance for individual Catholics, but for the entire Church, in solidarity.
With this truth in mind, the Global Catholic Climate Movement has organized a Lenten Fast for Climate Justice. Here’s their reasoning:
We propose that during this Lent we pray and fast for the renewal of our relationship with creation and with our brothers and sisters in poverty who are already suffering the impacts of man-made climate change. And, besides standing in solidarity with the victims of climate change, we urge our political leaders to commit to ambitious climate action to solve this urgent crisis and keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 degree Celsius (relative to pre-industrial levels).
So far, over 40 countries have signed on to the fast. Instead of fasting for forty days, the Lenten Fast for Climate Justice will ask participants to fast on a specified day for their country. The U.S. day of fasting is March 16.
This connection between Lent and ecological stewardship is also explored in a reflection at Catholic Ecology called “Lent’s lessons for life.” Bill Patenaude, the author of the article, draws a very important connection between the Church’s sexual and ecological teachings, which, at their core, both require the “fundamental duty of sacrificial self-restraint” and the rejection of a “consumerism” mentality.
The “culture of waste” that Pope Francis consistently condemns applies to both violations against the natural environment and the dignity of human life. A truly authentic–and intellectually honest–approach to environmental justice needs to address both of these issues, and the key to this is “the kind of self-restraint that’s at the core of chastity and natural family planning.”
More from Bill:
True, self-restraint is usually difficult—maybe even impossible. But God has not abandoned us and His presence remains with us sacramentally and however else He chooses to help. With Him, nothing is impossible.
Thus popes and theologians keep telling us that for a variety of reasons repenting and believing in the Gospel is not just for those people and it is not just about Lent. Sacrifice, abstention, and (by the grace of God) growing in virtue—all rooted in sacrificial love of God and neighbor—must be our year-round spiritual and worldly foundations.
Indeed, they are what we are all called to as we journey together, crosses held high, to the life-giving promises of Easter.
Let’s take the opportunity this Lent to work on self-restraint in our own lives, for the health of our relationships with our neighbors, our world, and our Loving God.