The Lenten Season: Extension Of Mercy
LAST Wednesday, February 10, 2016 was celebrated worldwide as Ash Wednesday. It is a special day in the Church’s liturgy, for it marked the commencement of the 40-day period of fasting and abstinence. On that day, over 1 billion Catholics the world over thronged places of worship to pay homage to their Creator, as well as receive the mark of ashes on their foreheads. The ashes symbolise the willingness to repent of past sins and to forge ahead confidently into the Lenten season with renewed vigour and trust in God’s saving grace. It also reminds the faithful that as humans, we emanate from dust and would surely return to dust someday.
Lent is a Christian tradition that is observed in many denominations. It is the hallowed 40-day period of sacrifice leading to Jesus’ death and Resurrection. Generally speaking, during Lent, we are all expected to draw nearer God, forsake sin and practise acts of charity and kindness, particularly to the poor and needy amongst us. We are expected to abstain from fleshly desires, show more restraints in our temperament and fortify ourselves so that the Holy Spirit may dwell comfortably in our hearts.
Lent is a season of solemnity and sacrifice commemorating Jesus’ exodus into the desert. Our sacrifice is a reminder of the self-sacrifice Jesus made to save us from our sins. Because of this, it is a Lenten tradition to sacrifice something for these 40 days. During this season, we are called to make sacrifices, no matter how trivial they may seem. Think about all the trivial things in your life that shift your focus away from God. There are so many things we enjoy such as eating junk food or drinking excessively. Why not cut down on your food intake and the drinks you consume and donate the funds accumulated for same purposes for the needy! Why not spend more time in prayer and I nterceding for those in dire need of our prayers and touching lives in special ways!
Interestingly, the Lenten season for this year is with a difference. Why? It coincides with the celebration of the Extraordinary Year of Mercy as directed by Pope Francis. The Year of Mercy is a clarion call for all to approach the throne of divine grace and embrace his unquantifiable forgiveness. It is a renewed call for all to appreciate that, though we are all sinners, God is ever willing to reconcile us to Himself, no matter how grievous our sins may be.
Our God is a God of mercy. He is ever willing to take us back provided we resolve to sin no more. In the book of Hebrews chapter 4 vs. 16, we are told, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” The Bible is very clear about God’s willingness and availability to absolve all our sins once we approach the throne of grace with confidence. In a nutshell, you cannot obtain mercy, if you refuse to acknowledge your sinfulness and repent of them.
As we seek God’s mercy, we are also reminded to forgive those who trespass against us. In which case, we must be willing to show mercy to those who offend us so that God may also extend His hands of mercy to us.
Very Rev. Msgr. Osu, Director, Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos.