Posted on: 2016-02-04


Rest, break, refreshment, restoration, pause are all concepts which elicit relief in our daily lives. Taking time off from the hustle and bustle of life is always welcome and necessary in most human endeavours, because we are finite beings and cannot keep going at the same pace for ever. Academics, labourers, soldiers, politicians sportsmen, businessmen, entertainers, and even priests,  all wisely create a period for the recuperation and realignment of strategies for optimization. Creation is not exempt from this law. Rain breaks up the dry season and daylight breaks the night. In stark acknowledgement of this fact Jesus Christ told his disciples: "Come to me all you who are  weary and heavy laden and I shall give you rest (Matt 11:28). That call approximates what the period of Lent is about, the restoration of the human soul and spirit for the purpose of optimizing man's vocation as one who has come from God and will one day return to Him.

Is Lent just about me?

The surrounding culture which we live in today privatizes and personalizes everything. From personal cars to personal computers, phones, personal websites and personal space we hear of a personal God and a personal Lord and Saviour. It is a culture which, though attractive, flies in the face of the nature of authentic Christianity as a uniting force and a religion of communion. Did Jesus not pray that "they all may be one"? (Jn.17: 21). One often wonders really if "The Lord's Prayer", "Our Father", composed by Jesus in plural terms still makes any  sense.  In such an environment it is possible to see Lent as nothing more than a private, personal exercise, oriented only to self-renewal and self redemption, only about the individual. How misleading that would be! To begin with, all true Christians know that no one person can save himself. Sinners as we are, we simply do not possess the capacity to do it without help from outside of ourselves. No less a person than Saint Paul expressed that view clearly in the Scriptures: "I do not do the good I want but I do the evil I do not want... Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from  this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom.  7: 19, 24-25).

Lent is about Jesus

in other words, our focus during  Lent therefore must be on Jesus, as appropriately expressed in the suave Christian hymn: "Take me, deeper in love with you Jesus, hold me closer in love with you Jesus, closer in love with you".  However, the Christian's union with Jesus at Lent still does not end with Jesus as the Saviour alone. It is a union with Jesus and his mission, which is to transform the temporal world into God's kingdom (Lk 4: 18-19). In other words, the deeper we fall in love with Jesus at Lent, the more we identify with his mission of touching  and transforming other people's lives. Just think here of our displaced, wounded brethren, victims of insurgency and inter-ethnic clashes! Herein lies the idea of the "Lenten Transfiguration" which Pope emeritus, Benedict XVI expressed in his writings. That experience of the believer's, a participation in the vision of the apostles on the mount of Transfiguration, imprints in the  heart of the Christian, those words which Peter, James and John heard on Mount Tabor: "This is my Son, the Beloved, Listen to him" (Mk. 9:7). Of course, no one can live on Tabor while still on earth for our life is always in motion, a journey, but a glimpse of Tabor affords us the gift of listening to God's beloved Son as he speaks through those whom we daily encounter: our wives, husbands, children parents, teachers, neighbours, prisoners, the poor, the ignorant, the homeless, etc.

Reaching out is the objective  of Lent

Such "penance of Lent" represents the right strategy for unleashing the love of God which is in us on the world. Our supreme model on this path is Jesus Christ himself who did not begin his ministry simply with a Triumphant Entry but through a humble birth and 40 days of fasting and prayer in the desert (Matt. 4). It is a big lesson for Christians that even Jesus did not embark on his mission by his own strength. He first received the Spirit of God. For us therefore, choosing this way of self-giving, and out-reaching existence, simply brings us invariably to the very spot where Saint Paul made his declaration about the pull of the flesh. Even if we mentally admit that this Lenten "exodus from oneself" brings true liberation and maturity, the material forces of gravity of our needs must be put under control. The traditional observances of Lent, namely prayer, Scripture, Fasting, almsgiving etc. are the "spiritual blood-thinners, the pain killers and  the antibiotics", that can prevent the blockage of our spiritual veins and arteries thus enable the blood of goodness to freely flow through them to others. To this end, constant interaction with God's Holy Spirit, is therefore indispensable.

With a head start    

As Christians we have a head start. For  many in today's world,  there are  serious challenges to the understanding of Lent. I mean many who have never even felt the need for a Saviour in the first place. Such a deficiency explains the inexplicable Godlessness, worldliness, violence, brutality, belligerence and stubborn adherence to evil and sinful ways in many people. Such people need our thoughts,  prayers and solidarity during Lent as well. That disposition guarantees miraculous refreshment and restoration for our soul on the way to heaven.