In Part I of this series, I highlighted the definitions of fasting, as well as attempted to answer why we fast (see here). To reiterate, this is summed up by Jesus in his conditions for discipleship:
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9: 23-24)
Fr. Mike Schmitz recently released a video on his popular YouTube channel, Ascension Presents, regarding fasting and the cross (here). In it, he has a few important points I believe are worth reflecting on this Good Friday and as we move toward Easter Sunday.
The first question he asks is an interesting one: is harder holier?
Working within the fitness industry, I have come across dozens of people who believe that choosing the hardest path will make them the healthiest. In my experience, this usually leads to unrealistic expectations and falling short of one’s original goals. Want to get healthy? Pick the simplest path from point A to point B. Don’t get swept up in fad diets, complex detoxes, and impossible training programs. Examine your daily choices and pick the simplest thing to remove or add. Make it a daily habit. I often light-heartedly tell my clients to use the “K.I.S.S.” method: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
This is Fr. Mike’s point. To get holier (spiritually “healthier”), we must examine the path God has chosen for us in its simplest form. It is not necessarily throwing out all our clothes, taking cold showers, or fasting for extended periods as a test of grit and will. Rather, it is a keen examination of self, combined with seeing what we need to remove or add from our lives. This has been my continual folly: I always have looked to the loftiest methods spiritually, only to fall short and feel disappointed.
Furthermore, as Fr. Mike points out, the cross is personalized. It is not distant. It is quite literally your cross. “… he must deny himself and take up his cross…”. You may have a personalized “passive” cross right in front of you without your choosing: an unfortunate medical diagnosis, loss of a loved one, physical ailments, etc. A more “active” cross is what we have been discussing this Lent; this involves listening to what God may be asking you to put down.
I was pleased to get the update this past Sunday that I was down 20% on screen time from the previous week. Overall, I saw about a 7-10% decrease each week, with this past week my biggest drop so far.
As mentioned in my previous post (here), as a result of having more time, I have been listening more to podcasts this Lent. These sometimes secular, philosophical and psychological discussions have oddly led me back to one thought: the cross. The suffering of the world is baffling, while at the same time is transforming and life-saving. The cross is a paradox. As I once heard it put, “the cross is at the crossroad where all roads cross”.
Today we do something to honor this paradox. We not only observe Jesus’ death, but we go one step further. We venerate, that is, revere and honor, the cross. We collectively unite to “regard with great respect” ancient Rome’s instrument of torture and execution. It’s really quite something.
I’ll admit, as I wrap up my 40 days of Lent, that it’s hard to relate putting down my $800 iPhone for a couple hours a day to Jesus’ march to Golgotha. To Fr. Mike’s point, though I didn’t necessarily choose the harder path, I believe it helped me grow holier.
I am content with losing some of my life for His sake.
I am content with the crosses in my life.
These I must pick up daily.