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Lent should produce change in us
Today, as we officially “put away the flesh,” many will quickly and contritely denounce Bacchus the Roman god of wine and revelry, and observe Lent, the 40-day period beginning Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy/Glorious Saturday.
To borrow from combosaurus.com, “The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer—through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. “Its institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the death and resurrection of Jesus, which culminates in the celebration on Easter Sunday and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Giving serious consideration to this period of contrition and its purpose of appeasing God for the wrong we have done, while pledging to perform the right we ought to do, one can see and seize the opportunity to become a better-balanced person.
Such an occasion of pious customs done collectively globally, can benefit a world overrun by hatred and deep-seated anger, but it has to be done with a hard turning-in on oneself, judging one’s failings with integrity. One should allow for a degree of compassion sufficient to understand the weakness of the human flesh but not so abundant as to deceive oneself about one’s mashup-ness.
With the focus on an holistic balance of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing, the idea is to make Lent more than just a period of faithful commitment to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries/foods as a form of penitence. While abstaining from food and drinks, reading the scriptures and praying are virtuous, Lent’s success should register greater than weight loss and, or the ritualistic completion of self-denial, after which we fete ourselves into a drunken, debauched stupor on the Easter Monday outing.
Imagine if we all took the next 40 days to reflect on the tapestry we have created from our life’s experiences thus far and, in so doing, owning up to the bias ends of fabric fashioned from our faults and sins, and then deciding to determinedly complete the work of art that is our life, with a better record. The truth to be faced would be that all of us have trespassed on one person or the other and all of us are in need of repair either to ourselves or to the relationships we have fractured along the way.
This Lent why not pay greater regard to some practical things? Let’s decide to set aside the superficial and make the fast more meaningful. These two instructive passages, one on the failings of our flesh, the other on true fasting, I believe, were written because God understands our fractured mentality as humans. The first is in Galatians says: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21 ESV)
Then Isaiah 58, speaking of true fasting, says:“For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them.” God had been in a feisty mood with his people and they were on the end of a rebuke that continues as follows: “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.
“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast…?” If we are preparing to appease and please God we must know what the expectation is and do not vainly engage in ceremonial happenstance.
For example, if we are gossipers and we will continue sowing discord among family/friends then I suggest we may be better off eating the meat or the chocolate that we so religiously deny ourselves for an entire 40 days. If we harbour hatred, envy, jealousy, and strife, and in T&T the prevalence of this dubious quadrant may account for the wanton maliciousness and murderous tide, then let’s each repent, while encouraging others by our example, and make this period a true time of change.
Lent is a man-in-the-mirror opportunity whose requisite expectation—if we commit to true fasting—ought to be that we consciously decide to change our ways especially where we inflict hurt on each other, splaying the psyche of our family, our community, our nation.
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