Dear Sacred Heart of Jesus Family,
I once a saw a bumper sticker that said “If you’re heading in the wrong direction, God allows u-turns.” That might be a good rule to keep in mind as we prepare for Lent. In less than a month we are going to arrive at Valentine’s Day, which is Ash Wednesday this year.
Scientists might be more interested in Ash Wednesday and Lent than ever before. Research is discovering new insights regularly about brain science and the way our bodies heal themselves. Two benefits tie our minds and bodies together: habit formation, and fasting. Incredible recent research is showing how powerful fasting is for healing the brain, resetting blood sugar, and restoring our bodies. For example, the only natural “internal” way to produce human growth hormone in adults, is through fasting. This powerful hormone is at work amazingly in our bodies when we are young, and growing. After reaching adulthood, we stop producing it. Yet when it is artificially manufactured and inserted into the bodies, it creates all kinds of health complications and dangers. Can we benefit from it? Yes, by fasting. Our bodies produce HGH when we fast. These amazing things are facts that I never knew when growing up. My favorite day of the year is Fat Tuesday! But when I discovered the benefits of fasting, I was amazed. Intermittent fasting is sweeping Silicon Valley. Executives and leaders are practicing it for its amazing health benefits. Yet, for thousands of years, our Faith has known that God wants His people to fast. Not because we like punishment or are masochists. Fasting has innumerable spiritual, personal, and health benefits. And the Church, as our mother, knows that a season of prayer and sacrifice has two goals: unite us to Jesus our Savior—knowing His Love for us, and secondly, to reboot ourselves. We fast before we feast. So even now, we can think about what we want to fast from. Physical fasting is good, as a form of some kind of disciple for our appetites. We want to master our passions, and not be a slave to our feelings. This leads to freedom for life.
The other aspect of Lent that I mentioned first, is habit formation. At least fifty (50) percent of what we do daily is habit based. We are creatures of our habits, good or bad. Breaking habits only works when we replace them with new habits. Forming new habits takes time, and works best when we prepare. So the self denial of Lent, allows space and energy to try something new. Whether it is prayer with the Lord, serving others, or changing our lifestyle, Lent is a privileged time to begin new growth. If we want to change the direction we are heading, self-mastery and habits are the power to lead us closer to God.
This weekend, the Mass readings call us to repent of self-destructive habits, that lead us from God and His Love. St. Paul also reminds us that we want the freedom that comes from knowing that we are heading towards heaven, and nothing here can ultimately be our final attachment. Once we know that we can turn away from harm, and aim for our goal, we want to bring others to the party. We are meant to bring souls to God and the Kingdom. Jesus said “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The first Apostles caught the vision, and we can too. Let’s turn into the light, leave things behind through self-mastery and new habits, and bring our friends, loved ones, and associates to the Kingdom of Joy.
In Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart,
Fr. Bjorn Lundberg