Fasting With the Catechism

by Diocese of Des Moines | March 30, 2021

Father Larry Hoffmann

At the start of the 40 days of Lent, I was faced with the question: What kind of fasting will I do? I really like watching the evening news, sports of many kinds, even the Weather Channel with the “Ice Road to Hell.”

Give up TV for Lent? Really?

Yes, and what would I do then? Of course, do some serious reading. What could I read? Looking at my bookshelf, I saw the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I said there are 40 days of Lent – there are just over 800 pages in the Catechism and that would mean about 20 pages a day. Humm. With no TV (except for Iowa basketball), that was my time every day.

What a delight! Most often, I have approached the Catechism as a reference book, checking out specific topics. This Lenten fasting allowed me to start from the beginning and to discover a marvelous unfolding of all that God is doing in today's world. These are some of my reflections while reading my 20 pages a day.

I have been fascinated for some time about creation, specifically when the Trinity in the eternal “now” started the reality that came into being that we know today. For God, there is only a “now” - not a yesterday or tomorrow. But the Trinity wanted to share God's love and the first moments of time in creation began; mass expanded; complexity was evidenced; life was given in forms without number. All gave glory to God by being as they were created.  

In the Catechism # 302 it says, “The universe was created in a state of journeying toward the ultimate perfection, yet to be attained, to which God has destined it.” In that universe, of all that God created, were pure spirits – angels, human beings – man and woman. In them was to be awareness of God's sharing of love. God freely shared love with all creation especially with the pure spirits and human beings. God knew that for love to be love, there had to be a freely given response. Of course, that meant that pure spirits and human beings had to have free will, which God gave to them.        

And God knew what would happen if free will was given to pure spirits and human beings. Some would choose not to love in response. Some would choose selfishly. Some would sin. Angels and Satan. Adam and Eve. Cain with Abel. And the history of mankind choosing not to respond to God's love began.

The Old Testament is filled with God's many initiatives to love in particular moments of time. In that history, God's eternal now plan to share love entered into “...the state of journeying...” In the eternal now plan, God was providing for the poor free-will choices that would be made through history. Figures like Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets all were part of God leading up to how these poor choices would be dealt with.

The second person of the Trinity – Jesus – would be sent into history as human and divine. Through his life, death and resurrection, salvation, forgiveness of sin, the gift of eternal resurrection life would be possible. But God will not force his gift of life and love on those with free will. We need to choose to receive that gift of eternal resurrection life. We need to use our free will and respond to that gift of love. The third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is with us every day encouraging and enabling us to choose to respond to God's eternal now plan to share life and love.

These were the kind of reflections I was having. One quiet evening in the chapel, after some time trying to pray, I had an image that lasted for a few seconds. In the image, the Catechism of the Catholic Church was open. The printing on the pages flew off and came right into me. My impression was that those words were no longer words but now a person.

 I wondered about this few-seconds experience. All the reading of the Catechism is “about” what God is doing, “about” the many figures of Salvation history, “about” Jesus. But maybe this moment was to let me know that it is not just “about” Jesus and God's unfolding plan. It is Jesus now in my life. It is God's plan “ the state of journeying...” happening within me right now.

As these Lenten days draw to a close, I am filled with hope. God's unfolding plan is moving “...toward ultimate, perfection, yet to be attained, which God has destined it.” God is touching my life and your life right now. We are in that unfolding plan. Even 400 long pandemic days will not stop what God has planned for each one and for all his creation to choose to respond to His gift of life and love.

Diocese of Des Moines

The Diocese of Des Moines, created in 1911, serves people over a 12,446 square mile area in the southwestern quadrant of Iowa, including 23 counties.