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Lenten season gives us life


One message out of the many social media messages I receive daily made an impression on me. I was not receiving this particular message for the first time but never before had it impressed on me like yesterday. The summary of the message is very simple, that we spend so little time and resources on the one who works most. A man took his car to the mechanic workshop for routine servicing. At the end of the day, he had spent about N25,000 to change oil, filter and spark plugs and labour. He had bought four tires for the car, totaling N145,000 the day before. He also bought fuel for N8000. Within two days he had spent N178,000 on one of his many cars.

At the end of every month, he does not spend less than N500,000 on his automobiles. He also does not spend less than N100,000 on communication. He spends much more on other sundry items. But he gives only N150,000 to the wife for feeding. He realised that he was spending more money on automobiles than on himself. He decided that he would spend more now on himself than on cars. He will eat better food, drink better fluids and wine. He will get a better bed and seats in the house. He needs to be better treated. I will treat myself better than I treat my properties.

All year round we are busy making money, acquiring positions and properties. We are busy making a living and so we forget to live. Others are busy doing the work of the Lord and they forget the Lord of the work. The season of Lent offers us the opportunity of going back into ourselves to find where we lost it. It is called stocktaking. Every business person knows the value of stocktaking because without it, the business goes under. The period of Lent affords us the opportunity of assessment to determine what is necessary for our spiritual rejuvenation.

The fruits of the Holy Spirit are good assessments of how your life is working. If the Holy Spirit is in you, it is supposed to bear these fruits; Charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, mildness, faith, modesty, continence and chastity. The presence of the Holy Spirit in anyone’s life is supposed to bear these fruits. It is true that many people are not at peace and joy has left many homes and families. Individual lives have become so bitter and goodness is rare to find.

What happened to patience and benign life? Modesty and faith in God has become so scarce because we want everything to be done according to our personal desires and wills. God is not in the centre of many lives. Where is continence and chastity since we have become so carnal and selfish? Without these fruits in individual and community lives, how can there be peace? How can we not have tragedies and calamities? How can families be at peace and united? How can we not have broken families and deranged children? We are busy building life and have no time to live. We are busy making money that we do not have the time to use it. We are busy building career that we have no time to benefit from it. At this time, let us listen to the voice of Jesus Christ who said to His disciples; “Come let us go to a lonely place and rest a while.”

The season of Lent affords us the opportunity to do self appraisal to determine what and how much we have lost or how far we can go. We should be able to find time within this period to take a deep breath and do an examination of conscience, life and business and work. It will help you to sharpen your work tools and give you back your life. You must have heard the story of the workman who had an axe. He worked so hard because there were many logs of wood for him to break. As he continued to work, he realised that each passing day, his output continued to reduce. He was no longer breaking enough logs of wood. He re-doubled his efforts. He would come to work early, work without a rest and close very late, yet there was no improvement. His friend came and examined his axe, the work tool and realised that the axe had become very blunt. He confronted his friend about it. “Why don’t you take time off duty and sharpen the axe? It will cut the wood faster.” The workman replied; “Yes I think of doing it many times but each time I think of the volume of logs of wood I have to break, I do not think it will be necessary to ‘waste’ time sharpening my axe. The time I should use to sharpen the axe can be used to break one or two extra logs. Time is money,” he said. The man never imagined that if he took time off to sharpen the work implement, he will break more logs and he will have greater output. Most of the time, it does not depend on us.

When we get to work, we aim at getting a good life, peace of mind and joy in our hearts. We desire that every day we should retire to our homes in peace to relax with our families and wake up the following day strong and fit to begin another day. Are you getting all of these above daily or most of the day? Are you by any means comfortable with the life you are living? This is why this season is the best for you to take a deep breath and look back in your life so that you can see clearly what the future holds for you.

The car owner in our first story spent so much money on the car to make it perform optimally. In the same way, for you to perform at full capacity as a human being you have to spend much more on yourself. You have to spend time to study yourself, the scripture and the will of God. Have time to purify yourself by way of prayers, meditation, penance and fasting. You should within this season really know what it means to be alive. By what you acquire as properties you make a living but by what you give out as charity and alms, you make a life. Many of us make a living without having a life. What we know of in our world today is a living not a life. Many people are simply living without being alive. The Lenten observances should give you a life. What is life? A person living in charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, mildness, faith, modesty and continence, such a person has life. This life can only come through the gift of the Holy Spirit. You do not get it through financial or economic breakthrough. You do not get it through electoral victory or political appointment. You do not get through award of contracts and connection in high places. In fact, it comes to you when you realise that you are empty. That is what the Lenten period does to us. Like the Lenten song says: “Lord Jesus think on me, and purge away my sins, from earthborn passions set me free and make me pure within.”

During this season of Lent focus on getting a life that will not lead to regrets. At least you owe yourself that much. That much too, God promises to grant you as you struggle to do his will. Happy Lenten Season!
Rev. Fr. Idoko is director of Pastoral Affairs Department, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria.

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