February 6, 2024 // Perspective

Lent and the Filet-O-Fish Dilemma

Do you ever wish we Catholics could shift culture as effectively as we shift fast food menus during Lent? There’s a huge billboard on my block that just changed out the advertisement to brag about the sale of the Filet-O-Fish. It will be up for roughly the next 40 days, after which it will be taken down and replaced. The question I ask is: When that billboard is changed, will my family also be changed?

Too often, I’ve seen Lent as this personal challenge – some sort of religious self-help proving ground trying to earn my Catholic badge so the Heavenly Father will love me. But lucky for me, that’s not how God’s love works. His love burns deeper than anything I can imagine, and He only waits for me to simply let Him in.

And that is exactly what I’ve found Lent can do for my family and me. Honestly, I can do a pretty great job of acting like I don’t need God. Instead of sitting in silence around a fire like my ancestors might have, I sit in a comfy coffee shop with two screens in front of me. I can spend the whole day filling up every quiet moment with self-improvement podcasts and entertainment. Life can seem pretty great until I take a moment to sit with myself. And that ache deep within me begins to stir up.

Here on earth, we are in the longing stage. We’re stretching between heaven and earth. We’ve met the Bridegroom, and we know the ending, but our hearts still yearn for the completion of all things. We need little tastes of the wedding party and little tastes (or healthy gulps at times) of the fasting.

Fasting is the space we give ourselves to feel that longing in our hearts – a time to let the ache for the heavenly banquet sink deep inside our bones.

As a dad of five boys (multiple with special needs), I find it to be a real challenge to lead them in fasting while still following Jesus’ command that when we fast, “put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father.” My goal is to help them feel the longing in our house and still show them that it’s not our work that earns His love. We love because we were first loved.

My hope for my home this year is simply to run a little slower, pull away from my digital world, and lean into being an example of love to one another – to give my boys the freedom to choose the sacrifice that will give them the space to see our family life and their relationship with God through a new lens. And hopefully, I can be an example of that to them, so we can each become, as Mother Teresa said, “a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”

We take the next 40 days to fast so that when we look up at the billboard and it has moved on to Shamrock Shakes or whatever the next thing is, we’re able to see past the advertisement into the heavens and recognize our place there and have a new vigor to find our rightful place beside the Bridegroom.

Cory Heimann is the Creative Director at Likable Art (likableart.com) and a parishioner at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Fort Wayne.

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