The Archdeacon of Cleveland, the Ven Dr Amanda Bloor, writes:

Recalibrating our Lives

Every year, as we enter Lent, I promise myself that I’m not going to get caught up in the race to prove how good a Christian I am by giving up something.

The question, ‘what are you giving up for Lent?’ can often lead to pressure to go on a diet, cut out some (admittedly unnecessary) food groups such as chocolate or alcohol, and feel better about ourselves by losing a few pounds. And every year, when I hear that question, I try to ask myself why I would be doing this. If the answer is, to prove that I have more willpower than others around me, then it’s a pretty self-centred action. Even though a bit of prodding to follow a more healthy lifestyle is probably a good reminder for most of us.

The age-old practice of prayer and fasting throughout Lent is intended to do two things: to encourage the individual to consciously draw closer to God, and to sweep away distractions that get in the way. By eating more simply, we learn to acknowledge what we have; by setting aside the things we don’t need, we focus on God rather than our more selfish desires. It’s a sort of mental recalibration and something that’s often important after the feasting and celebration of Christmas. And of course, at the end of Lent, after the solemnity and sorrow of Holy Week, we’ll feast again as we celebrate Christ’s victory over death.

Yet I know from visits to food banks, refugee welcome centres and community shops around my archdeaconry that food, for many, is not a commodity to be given up at will. For far too many, hunger is an ever-present reality. When I see church groups reaching out to the needy in their communities, offering food, welcome, support and hospitality, then I see love in action. I think of Jesus sharing food and company with those who came to him, regardless of their back story, and how he described a place being made ready in heaven for those who did the same.

“Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Perhaps, as we work through Lent, we could all pray to follow his example.

Amanda Bloor