I visited the local Imam to the Muslim community in Kelowna, today. Muslim people are observing the month of Ramadan, currently (it began on the 11th of August, and will wind up September 9th, this year).
I learned that the fasting that happens in Ramadan is a time to fast from more than food. It’s a time to be very intentional about, for example, not speaking poorly about people behind their backs (if one might be prone to such behaviour) – so it’s a fast from habits that may be unhealthy. Perhaps a good discipline for any of us: intentional time to reflect on what we do with our bodies, minds – our whole beings.
The closest Christians come to an annual period of fasting is our season of Lent. In my past, I’ve been known to give up sweets for Lent, or beer, and such. The faith community’s calendar is meant to draw different parts of life into one’s perspective – even more than simply “Valentine’s Day for love,” or “birthday to celebrate me,” or “Summertime to go on holiday.” Seasons like Lent or Ramadan, or days like Ash Wednesday or Yom Kippur – along with the liturgies they may involve or the passages from scripture they may include – such seasons and days give the gathered community pause to be conscious of life and the world. These days and seasons invite the community to be conscious of need in the world, and the interconnectedness of life.
Today is the last day of August, and September always feels like a new beginning with programs starting up and the school year getting under way. I’m looking forward to deepening connections with inter-faith and ecumenical friends in town – it’s an opportunity to invite people into conversation about life and values, as well as build community.