It is easy during Great Lent to focus on food. It is called the Great Fast, after all, but there is so much more to Great Lent than just food. Great Lent is as much about how we act out our Christian beliefs in our relationships with others. When it comes to fasting, that means not judging those who choose not to fast, or who don’t fast the way we choose to fast. What about other relationship challenges?
In today’s reading from Proverbs below, there are several beneficial reminders for our personal relationships, not the least of which is “He who is slow to anger has great understanding.” How can we expect to even have relationships, if every time we get together, we lose our cool? I can attest to the fact that it is much easier to become angry during Great Lent. I have learned that whenever I’m making a concerted effort to grow spiritually, I struggle with the same issues in today’s reading from Proverbs.
What do all these issues have in common? When we focus on ourselves too much, we ignore the needs of others. We become blind to their struggles. We are deaf to their cries for help. We experience every relationship in terns of how we can benefit. It becomes like the perfect storm, often, as others choose to not be in a relationship with us as it is filled with turmoil. We are left to ourselves, by ourselves, and for ourselves. We become not human, like animals ravaging the wilderness.
How can we retreat from this danger? It begins with accepting the world does not revolve around us. We can’t have everything when we want it, how we want it, as much as we want it. As you embark upon the fifth week of Great Lent, recalling the wisdom from St John of the Ladder, it all begins with renouncing the world. THEN fasting, praying, serving the poor, attending Church services, having confession, all makes sense.
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death. In a multitude of people is the glory of a king, but without people a prince is ruined. He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh, but passion makes the bones rot. He who oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is kind to the needy honors him. The wicked is overthrown through his evil-doing, but the righteous finds refuge through his integrity. Wisdom abides in the mind of a man of understanding, but it is not known in the heart of fools. Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. A servant who deals wisely has the king's favor, but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully. A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. – Proverbs 14.27-15.4