by Fr. Jerry Kurian KodiattuLent is a time to reflect upon our own short comings, to rectify our life and follow diet restrictions so that we become better persons. But one can't take love out of the equation when we do this. But who or what do we love and can we love ourselves while we are at it? To love means to sacrifice and let go of many things which we consider valuable to us. But love also means doing something good for the sake of others. There are a lot of people who ask whether it is imperative that we have diet restrictions during lent and whether we need to fast during lent? The question itself means that we need to because it affects us so much that we ask! Diet restrictions are not by itself going to take us to heaven as prayers mention clearly that fasting without inner change is of no use as inner change provides fodder for the soul and outward fasting only affects the body. But diet restrictions are good because they help us to lighten up, think well, hope good and act meaningfully. It is to suggest that diet restrictions and fasting instead of making us angry should make us better individuals who work for the betterment of others. This can be done by knowing that we have to love ourselves to diet and fast. We are on the journey to become better people and thereby behave better with others. The journey always starts with us and we prepare ourselves by eating light and eating less and thereby telling ourselves that we are not starving and denying ourselves food but rather giving just enough food for sustenance and survival. This then leads us to thinking about the sustenance and survival of others. So loving ourselves in a spiritual way leads to loving others and is a natural progression. St. Luke 6:31 says "Do to others as you would have them do to you." Today dieticians tell us to love our body more so that we can get more out of our body. Watch what you eat so that you can have a balanced body and mind they say! So dieting for a special cause is not depriving the body but in essence loving the body. Loving the body also means having good thoughts about ourselves and what we are doing. If we don't love ourselves how can we love another? Proverbs 10:12 says that "Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers all wrongs." Eating our heart out may only bring about more desire and dissension. On the other hand depriving ourselves brings out true love. Deprivation is one sort of love where we say that I am sacrificing for something. Lent has also been seen as deprivation of food for the body so that the soul is enriched by the deprivation. But lent is also depriving cravings for certain kind of food so that true love is brought out. Craving for something or someone may not be true love. Depriving our cravings brings out a true element of love inside us. Eating is something everyone can do. It comes naturally to us. Love is also natural but it becomes true love when we do unnatural things. Jesus Christ dying on the cross was unnatural but brought out God's love for the world. 1 John 4:8 says "Whoever does not love, does not know God, because God is love." Bringing in dietary regulations during lent brings about an element of unnaturalness in us and leads to true love. St. John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Love makes no sense and is mysterious in certain ways. But it is the only way forward. Any act of dieting and love can only be complete when we prepare ourselves to love others. Without this we will remain in a vacuum of self-righteousness. St. Matthew 22:37-39 says: Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Loving others is dieting, restricting and depriving as this leads us to love. May lent be a time to deprive and love ourselves so that we may move on to loving others just as we were told by Jesus Christ. Amen. About The Author: Fr. Jerry Kurian Kodiattu, Malankara World Board Member, is a Lecturer, Department of Communications at United Theological College, Bangalore, India.
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