Posted on: 2014-04-02

The unchanging message of Lent
At every Lent, Christians are urged to draw closer to God and their salvation in repentance and conversion by imbibing higher spiritual values than before. Lent, begins with the significant and symbolic signing of the foreheads of believers with ashes. It reminds us all that life and indeed man, has an expiry tag. One day all the glamor and the glitz will end. That is the reality of human existence. Many prophets in the Bible made the vigorous call to repentance which is re-enacted, year after year; Joel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea and others preached the same message. The prophet Zechariah put a different spin on it: “Render true judgment, be kind and merciful to each other. Do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the alien or the poor, do not plot evil in your heart against one another” (Zech. 7:9-10).
The triumph of indifference
That message is presumably accepted by over 1.2 billion Catholics and yet more people of other Christian denominations in the world today. Yet it would seem that the more the people who have come to believe the good news, the more are the vices which our modern world habours. Social injustice, political oppression, widespread abuse of human rights, widening of the gap between the rich and the poor, enactment of anti-life laws and systematic elimination of the weak and defenceless in human society gain more currency in many parts of the world. It just does not seem to matter much to those in power, many of whom are Christians, that the weak and defenceless should enjoy the very same rights as the high and the mighty, that human life should be held sacred, that every Nigerian has a right to work etc. Does it really matter in Nigeria, for example, that 10 million children are out of school with no chance for education? Does it cause sufficient concern that 3 years after the Boko Haram insurgency began people are still being killed almost at will by terrorists? Is it any longer a serious issue that millions of Nigerian have no electricity or water and lack the means whatsoever to procure them?
Who is your Father?
A few Nigerians are obviously shielded from such insecurities and uncertainties of life. They can provide education for their children up to the ends of the earth, if necessary. They have more than adequate security guards and gadgets, when they are home and on the roads. They have no preoccupation about where their next meal is coming from for they have abundance of food and drink. Shelter and clothing constitute no problem at all for they have more than enough to choose from. Among these are Christians of high authority and influence who do little or nothing about what goes on around them. Such Christians also pray what is arguably the most famous prayer in the world: “The Lord’s Prayer” which begins with the words: “Our Father”. When they do, are they serious about it and do they mean what they say? Is God really father to all or to some special segment of people? (Matt 23:8). God is indignant about such prayers. These people approach me in words; they honor me with lip-service, while their hearts stay afar off. The worship they offer me is useless… (Is. 25:13)
Are we all brothers?
If the Lord’s prayer means the same thing to us all who pray it, we can all then imagine for a moment how “our father” must feel about this prayer from some of his children who are well fed, adequately sheltered and having practically all the basic necessities of life while his other children remain homeless, malnourished and naked… This is one reason why the period of Lent, in addition to bringing about spiritual growth and renewal must make us, Christians, to actively transform our society and act on the things which demean the dignity of other children of God. The will of God is clear from Jesus’ declaration of his mission at Nazareth. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor …” (Lk. 4:18-19). He reemphasized God’s will when he also said “…I have come so that they may have life, life in all its abundance” (Jn. 10:10). As his friends, every Christian must do something concrete at this Lent to enhance social balance and equity.
Children of one father
The Catholic Church in Nigeria has proposed a practical Lenten plan made around the right of all God’s children to food. The truth is that children and families still die of malnutrition and starvation in our nation even today but the high and mighty are generally too high up to notice. The right to food is a fundamental human right. Day-to-day Christians must take up this responsibility. In Nigeria there is more than enough wealth and resources to stop starvation and malnutrition. Yet much food go to waste in the hands of those who have more than enough. This Lent provides each of us an opportunity to help right the wrong. Join the campaign against hunger. You too can do something! Feed a hungry family or individual today and help the most vulnerable. Jesus in the Bible, seeing the hungry crowd, told his disciples: ‘You yourselves, give them something to eat…” (Mark 6: 37). Let his words draw you to play your part. “Our Father”, the father of all irrespective of status or tribe, will be happy with your prayer.