Headline: Lent: Stay Awake Stand Ready

Posted on: 2015-02-23

The globalization of indifference

"Lent is a time of renewal for the whole Church, for each community and for every believer. Above all it is a 'time of grace'". With those words, Pope Francis began his message for Lent 2015. The pope confirms at the very beginning of the letter that God is not aloof from his people, that we each have place in his heart and that he cares for us. It is God's love for us that does not allow him to be indifferent to what happens to us and to his world. "For God so loved the world that he sent his only son..." (Jn 3:16). We often claim to love God but that is possible only because God loved us first (1Jn 4:19). If only we all loved like God! Pope Francis' words describes our general situation succinctly: "As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable. I don't think about those less well-off. Today, this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference. It is a problem which we, as Christians, need to confront". Lent must be a time of grace, especially for Christians to reflect on how sensitive we are to the situation around us whether we are among those who have "globalized indifference" in any way.

The solution of interior renewal

According to Pope Francis: "God's people then, need ... interior renewal, lest we become indifferent and withdraw into ourselves". In order to conquer this fatal withdrawal into ourselves, we must take counsel from Saint Paul: "If one member suffers, all suffer together" (1Cor. 12:26). What this means is that we let God clothe us with mercy and goodness, with Christ, so as to become, like Christ, servants of God and of others. Again the Pope proposes, "Lent is  a favourable time for letting Christ serve us so that we in turn may become more like him (Phil 2:5ff). This happens whenever we hear the word of God and receive the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. There we become what we receive, the body of Christ. In this body there is no room for the indifference which so often seems to possess our hearts". This solution, of course cannot simply be wished into existence. Those who wish to bring about the kingdom of God in this way must obviously regularly unite themselves to God in prayer and meditation.

Community and family privilege and duty

Put in other words, Christians cannot take refuge in a universal love which embraces the world and fails to see the Lazarus sitting before our closed doors. Our immediate community and family must benefit from our openness of heart if it is to be authentic. It becomes a circular movement of giving and taking when we realize that every receiving community, family or individual has the obligation to open up and reach out to others. Thus, with the Church we follow Jesus Christ along the paths that lead to every man and woman, to the very ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Think here about our displaced brothers and sisters and victims of various disasters in Nigeria? How much have you done, lending a hand to ease their pain. What has been your role in reconciliation efforts in our violence riddled nation? In more practical terms, staying awake and standing ready, in the message of Pope Francis for Lent this year, calls on all Christians to pray for greater openness to the grace of God; to do more charity by reaching out to those both far and near as a concrete sign of our belonging to one human family; and to see the suffering of others as a reminder of the uncertainty of our own life and dependence on God. He reiterates that in this process of "formation of the heart" a merciful heart does not mean a weak heart. We must, in fact remain strong, closed to the tempter but remaining always open to God, the giver of all good things. The challenge for us all is in putting these terms to practice in everyday life. Lent is an ideal time to try our very best to do so.       

"50 Shades of Grey"

Prevention is always better

A few weeks ago a movie, reputed to be on the dark side of decency, was launched into Nigeria, showing private television and the cinemas. It is entitled "Fifty Shades of Grey". People who saw the movie differed on it. One of my friends described it as "an erotica which tries to frame sadomasochism and sexual domination as a valid and normal expression of love. This plot in fact epitomizes, in all glitz and glam, the darkened thoughts of the violent rapist who believes that their cruel sexual violence is indeed enjoyable even for the one being violated". As it turned out, those who saw the movie in a negative light were right because the Nigerian Film Censors Authorities have now banned the movie in Nigeria. With that, "good riddance to bad rubbish". We have more than enough tragedy and violence in Nigeria, than to add more sadomasochism and violence against women to the burden. However, where was the Censors Authorities in the first place when "50 Shades of Grey" came in to the country? Is prevention no longer cheaper and better than cure? This should remind us all to be vigilant and discerning about the products of the entertainment world and the media. So many youths are being led into terrorism, rape drug addiction by media and entertainment messages today?  Let us be well reminded of Jesus' perfect admonition for Lent: "Stay awake and stand ready for you do not know the day nor the hour when the thief will come" (Matt. 24:43-44).