Lent: what should I do?
The sacred and venerable season of Lent is here again upon us and for us. I see and hear many making efforts to do away with barriers against the spirit and demands of Lent. However, one question kept ruminating in my mind and soul; Lent: what should I do? Some faithful have given up smoking I hear. Others have given up drinking of alcohol and chewing gum I am told. Still others have given up over-eating, gossiping, lying, talking too much, cursing and so forth as I have perceived. Interestingly, people vow “solemnly” to give up many things in a hurry, as far as it prepares them for Easter celebration. Kudos! I commend these elements of our religiosity and possibly piety. Permit me to ask and so I dare ask: what about the spirituality of Lent?
I would like to call our attention to the spirituality of lent which invariably speaks of the purpose of Lent and what should be our drive during this retreating moment with the Church for 40 Days of prayer, fasting/penance and almsgiving. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the real aim of Lent is, above all else, to prepare us for the celebration of the Paschal mystery of Our Lord Jesus Christ (i.e. His suffering, death, and resurrection). A sacred moment to relive the Paschal mystery, internalize it and grow through it for our spiritual life. Accordingly, “The purpose of Lent is to provide that purification by weaning men from sin and selfishness through self-denial and prayer, by creating in them the desire to do God’s will and to make His kingdom come by making it come first of all in their hearts.” Therefore, the spirituality of Lent is the progressive attitude of learning to unlearn all the erroneous ideas about God and the debris of life that we had imbibed in the course of our human journey as spiritual beings. A certain rabbi says that “Spirituality is the progressive unlearning of nonsense.” This, in all honesty fits the spirit of Lent! So, what should I do to actualise the spirituality of Lent? I need three core attitudes, values or virtues: discipline, reawakening and openness to unlearn to learn.
Discipline: Lent is a “tithe of time” according to St. Pope Gregory the Great. Hence, Lent is a time for self-denial in order for us to rediscover and appreciate the presence of God. Actually God is with us and in us. But we rarely believe it, let alone live it out. St. Paul calls us, “the temple of God” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). What is commonly held among a good few of us is separation between God and us. But the Catholic priest, theologian and mystic – Meister Eckhart, affirms that “The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me.” It requires some form of discipline to attain this realization that has been shared by St. Paul and Meister Eckhart. So, let us maintain the rules of Lent because the purpose of Lent is to enjoy the presence of God.
Spiritual reawakening: The spirituality of Lent invites us to renew our fight against evil, it is a challenge or if you like a sincere confrontation against evil and its originator the Devil. Pope Francis confirms that, “Lent Is a Journey of Conversion and a Struggle against Evil.” When that is done we definitely will return to the core of our being, that is our souls and there God is for us because we are imago Dei (image of God). From the foregoing, we shall be hearing so much from the Master and Author of our Faith – Jesus Christ: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15); we shall be hearing from the Church Fathers: do away with the occasions of temptations and sins, and we shall be hearing from the Church please cleanse yourself from all forms of spiritual debris by embracing the sacrament of Reconciliation/confession.
Openness to unlearn what is injurious to our holistic health and to learn what will empower our entire life: We have said the Lenten “Spirituality is the progressive unlearning of nonsense.” But it is also the time to learn better things, things that work and can edify our neighbour and give glory to God. If I am used to praying ordinarily, I will this time advance to some levels of meditation and journaling, if I am used to hoarding and making myself “happy” then this sacred and venerable moment of Lent, I shall reach out to other people especially those in need and accumulate JOY for myself and those around me. Thanks for embarking on this year’s journey of Lent!
Lent: what should I do?
Fr. John-Mary Atep