Headline: The Lent of Human Limitations

Posted on: 2015-02-14

The  morning after

The Bible is replete with exhortations about the strong and secure. Beware! Whether the issue be a flight to pleasure through drugs, alcohol or sex, the time always comes when every human flight of fantasy comes back to land. That landing, for good or for bad, depends very much on the nature of the choices we make in the process of flight. You cannot sow rice and reap cassava, if you sow a storm you reap a whirlwind. What you sow is what you reap, as the Bible affirms (2 Cor. 9:6, Gal 6:7). Remorse time, has an uncanny way of wiping away the dusty film of self-deceit from our eyes. Reality then stares us in the face. It is sometimes called "the morning after feeling", the kind that follows the unreasonable adventure of a February 14th. It can even be the feeling that hits a whole nation when its government, after years of planning and promising prompt and pristine elections, turns around days before the event to announce a postponement. Just like that! Hopes and aspirations crumble like a matchstick house, like dreams emptied of all logic and self-assurance. How could it happen after all the grandstanding? All assailed by the "morning after feeling" somehow realize that God alone always counts and can always be counted upon.

The lee-way of Lent

At such times of the collapse of human confidence the discerning mind must rediscover that   summoning voice that never ceases. God seeks his own again and again. "Where art thou?, God asked Adam and Eve and He still asks that question today. They felt a sense of shame because of the options they took, as the Bible said, because "they were naked", rendered so by their own very disobedience and self-deception. Lent is God's mechanism to revive our moribund hopes and resurrect our dead. The present circumstances of Nigeria remind us that we have for too long applied the treatment for rashes to cure our real ailment, the leprosy of sin. So, with all our brilliant speeches and schemes about democracy and institutions we have largely failed to treat the miserable corruption and inefficiency of the man at the centre of it all. Houses are never built from the top except perhaps in computer software and graphic drawings. Piece the picture of the man on the paper correctly together and you cannot err with the map of the world on the flip side even of a piece of paper shredded into a thousand pieces. So, God calls us all to a moral and spiritual self renewal: "Come let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet they will be white as snow" (Is. 18:). So, it is time again to return to God, refuge of the hopeless (Ps. 16).

Repentance is always relevant

Will there ever come a time when repentance gets outdated in human life? Most unlikely!. There is always a Prodigal Son out there needing to return home (Lk.15). There is a Father as well, ever willing to take back his son and set him on the right track. Why not be the prodigal who  says: "Yes, I shall arise and return to my Father"? In the Church that return is powerfully signaled by the signing with ashes. Ashes signify the nothingness that acompanies all human endeavour, a fact which nudges us to remember the primacy of the spirit over the flesh, the spiritual over the material. "It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh has no gain" (Jn. 6:63).The Creator himself summarized the futility of human adventure against the divine will. He said, "Man, you are dust and unto dust you shall return" At funeral services we hear it repeatedly, "ashes to ashes, dust to dust". It would have all been a hopeless end, had God himself not promised a savior who would turn it all right round. From the ashes and dust of our finiteness, the love and power of Jesus Christ resurrects our human soul. So says the traditional hymn : "In the cross be my glory ever. Till my ransomed soul shall find rest beyond the river". That ransomed soul of the sinner is like gold which brings joy even among the angels in heaven (Lk. 15:7).

The ashes and the gold

So, Lent is a period of transformation. On ash Wednesday, we recall the importance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the benefits which we reap from it. Jesus Christ attracts the mercy of God to us. We are then empowered to live like those who "have come out of the great persecution; they have washed and made their clothes white in the blood of the lamb" (Rev. 7:14). Such is the power of the saving intervention of Christ which, during Lent,  beckons on those who are yet to experience it. That is the point at which our ashes turn to gold. St Paul puts it well in his letter to the Romans: "by this baptism in his death we were buried with Christ and, as Christ was raised from among the dead by the Glory of the Father, so we begin walking in a new life" (Rom 6:4).That new life makes a sweet but challenging demand of us all. It was a favorite theme of Saint Paul as he put it to the Corinthians: "However we carry these treasure in vessels of clay, so that his all-surpassing power may not be seen as ours but as God's (2Cor 4:7). So it is, that God's transforming power redeems our human decadence and weakness whenever we heed that universal call to holiness: "Change your ways, the kingdom of heaven is close at hand" (Matt 3: 2). There is no better time than now to say "yes" to our salvation.