Every Lent, I fast to remember

by Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda

North Texas Catholic


Jesus meets the Veronica in this relief from Saint Antoine Church in Brussels, Belgium. (Renata Sedmakova / Shutterstock.com)

Ten years after my friend Pat and I walked 350 miles of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage across northern Spain, we sat at her dining table and laughed about the vigorous women we were then — and how much our lives had changed.

Pat was battling brain cancer, and I was learning to function with a chronic autoimmune condition. Exactly one week after marking the 10th anniversary of our arrival at the holy city of Santiago de Compostela, Pat completed her earthly pilgrimage.

During that last year of her life, as I walked with Pat through her chemo, then radiation, and then finally facing her impending death, we used to talk about and ponder how the physical trials of our daily life mirrored the struggles and challenges we went through on the Camino.

In truth, however, it’s the other way around. Our Camino pilgrimage was and is a metaphor for our lives: I can’t anticipate what struggles today will bring, but anything is doable one step at a time; Every uphill has a downhill; Hardships become manageable with a friend; Every single thing that I carry weighs me down, so I must choose wisely what is in my backpack. And accepting that there will always be hardships and trials in our daily walk is the path to, ultimately, learn to notice the unexpected blessings along the way.

In our culture, however, things like pain, suffering, worries, difficulties, grieving, are all things to conquer — and above all to anesthetize as quickly as possible. Each of us becomes an addict looking for a quick fix. Drugs. Food. Exercise. Sex. Alcohol. Shopping. Television. Disposable relationships. Whatever it takes in order to not feel bad, sad, or hurt.

Lent offers me a unique opportunity in my quest to open my heart without reservation to what God wants to give me each day. I fast to get out of my comfort zone. But mainly I fast as a continuation of my pilgrimage, out of my desire to become deliberate in my daily living.

Thus the question is ultimately not whether there’s a point to giving things up during Lent, but whether I should ever stop fasting from all that numbs, dulls, and deadens me to life, all of life, as it is today — the good, the bad, and the ugly!  But I can start during these 40 days.

Fasting makes me willing.

For Christians, Good Friday stands alone in holiness and singularity. That one day defines who and what we believe — and what makes us different. Christianity alone scandalously proposes a God who becomes human out of love for humanity. The scandal only deepens when this God-made-man willingly accepts suffering and death out of complete trust!

The Passion of Christ is not so much about remembering how Christ suffered, what happened to Him, or even about how dreadful we imagine it was. It’s not a documentary on the History Channel.

Think about the difference.

Even as He walked the way of the cross, He comforted the women. He loved on his mother. He showed gratefulness to the kind heart who wiped his bloody face. He forgave his offenders. And He offered hope to the thief next to Him as He hung dying on the cross.

No. The Passion of Christ is about Jesus’ response to what was happening to Him.

In the midst of intense pain, in spite of undeserved persecution, torture, and profound suffering, Jesus keeps his eyes on God the Father, commending his heart, his spirit, his entire being to the One He trusted completely and without reservation.  

The Master shows us the way to the Father’s love.

And every Lent I fast to remember.

Ten years after my friend Pat and I walked 350 miles of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage across northern Spain, we sat at her dining table and laughed about the vigorous women we were then — and how much our lives had changed.