Clerics on lessons of Lent
‘A Very Important Element Of The Lenten Season Is Becoming Aware Of Not Only Christ’s Suffering And Sacrifice, But Also Others’ Suffering’
It’s another Lenten period, a time to reflect and ponder Christ’s sacrificial death. What lessons should Christians learn, in preparation for Christ’s triumphant resurrection? CHRIS IREKAMBA reports.
‘We Should Seek National Repentance Like Nineveh, Pray For God’s Mercy’
(Rt. Revd Sunday Timothy Adewole, Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Jebba, Kwara Ecclesiastical Province of the Church of Nigeria)
Lent, also called Quadragesima, which means fortieth, is a 40-day solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Good Friday. The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial. It is a period of rededication to God’s service and appreciation of Christ’s redemptive work.
During Lent, many Christians commit to fasting and prayer, as well as giving up certain luxury in order to replicate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s journey into the desert for 40 days. We know there’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation, but giving something up for Lent can be a way to focus on living sacrificially. When we give something up, we turn our lives over to Jesus and turn away from sin. Lent is traditionally also in commemoration of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, before beginning His public ministry, during which He endured temptation by Satan.
Fasting is a way of denying ourselves life’s excesses so that we might be more attuned to the Lord’s voice. It is also a way of disciplining yourself, strengthening one’s “spiritual muscles” so to speak, so that when temptations come, you are already used to saying, “no” to your desires. Fasting and prayer is a good safeguard for the soul, a steadfast companion for the body, a weapon for the valiant, and a gymnasium for spiritual athletes.
Fasting repels temptations and anoints unto piety. It is the comrade of watchfulness and chastity.
A very important element of the Lenten season is becoming aware of not only Christ’s suffering and sacrifice, but also others’ suffering. Between now and Good Friday, we are expected to increase our giving to those in need. It could be through extra financial offerings, donating goods you no longer need or use to charity, or increasing personal time commitment to a ministry or cause close to your heart.
Medically, various research studies suggested that taking a break from eating could sometimes reduce risk factors for such chronic conditions as diabetes and heart disease. If you want to energise your spiritual life, if you want to slay a sin that has you in bondage, if you want to grow in union with God, then take up the holy weapon of fasting. For as Jesus said, there are some demons that “cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.”
This is the time we should seek national repentance like Nineveh, pray for God’s mercy and favour upon our leaders in all sectors, be it governmental or religious. If we are hoping to reap a full benefit of Christ suffering, death and resurrection, we cannot but deny ourselves of some excesses and be more committed and devoted to God.
‘Lessons Are That We Conquer Through Our Knees’
(His Eminence, Dr. Samuel Chukwuemeka Kanu Uche, Prelate, Methodist Church, Nigeria)
Lent is a period of sober reflection. It encapsulates the 40 days and 40 nights Jesus Christ fasted before starting His ministry. It also encapsulates the last days of Jesus Christ on earth. All these things put together, including His teachings, the various attempts to entangle Him by His words, championed by the Sadducees and Pharisees, which culminated into His prayer, arrest, condemnation, crucifixion and resurrection. However, we associate ourselves with the sufferings of our Lord Christ and it is more for us as Christians that at this time in the life of our nation, we should pray because of several challenges manifesting in various ways. There is the challenge of insecurity, and even though there is food in the land, 70 per cent of our people are hungry. There are also other challenges, including unemployment. So many workers have not been paid, which has compounded the whole issue. So, we need to pray seriously, and not only during Lent. We should be praying for our country, our leaders and ourselves, so that Nigeria will be a nation of peace. In fact, without prayer, so many things would have threatened this country’s existence. But in spite of all these, God has been in control. And one day, we will sing hallelujah in our country because God is in control of the situation. We are not losing hope.
Lessons are that we conquer through our knees. We deny ourselves of food and drink to be closer to God. We should ensure that people around us don’t suffer. We must ensure that they have something to eat and drink. We should be selfless and know how to sacrifice for the rainy day and for our country. We should not in any way spill blood. Rather, we should protect life and not destroy it. Everything about Lent is prayer and fasting. Sustaining lessons of Lent is through determination and we should not forget to do charity work. It could be hypocritical to say we are observing Lent and yet evil is manifesting everywhere.
During this period, we are expected to be upright, righteous, decent, always ensuring we promote justice, equity, love and kindness. Don’t plan evil against any human being. Our politicians should be mature enough in playing politics, which is not about hatred. You don’t kill in order to be a leader. It is a period of penitence, of humility and meekness.
‘We Are Supposed To Have Improved In Our Character’
(His Grace, Alfred Adewale Martins, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos)
Lent, as we know it, is a time that God has given to us for reconciling with Him, as well as an opportunity to reconcile with our neighbours. Generally, it is a time of reconciliation with God and with our fellowmen. This time, God expects us to open ourselves to repentance for our sins against Him and make effort to overcome whatever shortcomings we find in our lives. During this period, there are a number of practices that ought to help us in this process of reconciling with God and with one another.
For instance, during the time, we are supposed to pay more attention to our prayer life. As we pay more attention to our prayer life, we are closer to God than ever before. Prayer is a form of dialogue and an interaction with God. It helps us to overcome the challenges of relationship with God.
During Lent, we deprive ourselves of legitimate food and drink that we are entitled to, so that we can do away with our bad habits and shortcomings. Almsgiving and being charitable to others help us to build our relationship with one another.
Generally, these are the thoughts that should be going on in our minds as Christians during this period. Our relationship with God and with one another is not a 40-day event. Therefore, Lent is not just a period to avoid sin and do good only for 40 days and after that go back to what it used to be. Rather, we are supposed to have improved in character… rather than ordinary 40 days ritual observances.
‘Our Life Must Reflect What God Wants Us To Be’
(The Rt. Rev. (Dr.) Peter Ogunmuyiwa, Bishop, The African Church, Diocese of Abuja and the North/National Coordinating Chaplain, Christian Association of Nigeria, Ecumenical Centre, Abuja)
This period is a season of repentance and stocktaking. And if a Christian discovers that he/she is not standing right with God, he/she is expected to make amends and reconcile back to his or her Creator. This is a period when you forgive your neighbour and seek forgiveness and pardon of all one’s offences before God. This is a season whereby you seek the face of God. This is a period when we seek God’s intervention both in our lives and in our national life. This is a period when God Himself shows mercy upon His people and upon His church. The Bible says, ‘if my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and ask for forgiveness’ God will heal our land and give us a new life. This is a season when we enjoy the fullness of God’s mercy and grace.
This is just to remind us that our focus should be on Jesus Christ. However, our time of fasting and praying is not limited to this period of Len. Rather, in our daily activities, we must be prepared at all times for the second coming of Jesus Christ in our conduct and in our attitude to life generally. That we are observing Lent does not mean that it should end with this season. Every Christian must live as if there is no tomorrow, because our lives must reflect what God wants us to be in life. So, the lessons of this season should go beyond this season. We must be committed to our God and even after this Lenten season, our commitment to Him should continue. The Bible says, ‘we must live a sacrificial life for God, living our lives for God as a shining example to unbelievers.’
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