Lent is a period of sober reflection, by clerics
On March 6, 2019, Christians all over the globe observed Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of another Lenten season. During this period, Christians are expected to pray and fast for 40 days before commencement of Easter. What should Christians focus on this Easter, especially as it coincides with the election period? CHRIS IREKAMBA reports.
‘This Is A Time To Denounce Evil’
(Most Rev (Dr.) Emmanuel A.S. Egbunu, Bishop of Lokoja Diocese/Archbishop of Lokoja Province, Lokoja, Kogi State)
This year, as any other time, it is important to seek the Lord and plead for His mercy upon us. In Isaiah 55:6–7 we read: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
Lent is a time to evaluate our lives by God’s standards, return with contrite hearts, and implore His mercy to forgive and restore us. The elections conducted so far leave one in no doubt about how deeply we have sunk in our moral depravity. How else can one explain the total disregard for human life – that which has now been turned into fodder for personal ambition at gunpoint? The impunity with which evil has been executed with loud and open boasting cannot but activate the judgment and fury of the righteous God Who is not silent. Anyone with a sense of the history of God’s judgment knows that it is far more serious than most people realise. There is so much bloodshed and wickedness in the land.
For Lent this year, and any other time people are waiting on God – and I know many have been crying to God day and night – we must implore both the justice and mercy of God. There is judgment for the unrepentant, and mercy for the penitent. We must draw near God, and plead, like prophet Habakkuk (3:2), “In wrath remember mercy” I have hope in God that we will not call upon Him in vain. Like Jesus said to Peter, in John 13:7, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Fellowmen may be powerless, but those who think they can cause confusion and take the next available flight must think again: no part of the universe is outside God’s reach.
This is a time to call evil by its name and denounce it, or it will stay with us. Those who see evil and fail to denounce it are accomplices. As Prophet Isaiah said in Isaiah 58:3–4, religious observances without corresponding rectitude are a sham: “Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.” If, like the people of Nineveh, we repent in our fasting, God will show us mercy; but if we fail to repent from evil and allow justice and fair play, then we cannot wish away the evil days that are sure to come, and no one can escape. This is our opportunity to really seek the Lord and intercede for the soul of our dear country. May God have mercy on us.
‘It’s A Time We Re-exam Our Lives’
(His Grace, Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos)
We consider the Lent period as an opportunity for vocation of purging ourselves of sinfulness and making a renewed commitment to living according to the demands of faith. I think it is the case of many Christians who engage in Lenten observances and get benefits from it. But you know it is just like some people, who at the beginning of the year make resolutions, and somehow they fall short. This does not mean it is not appropriate. Indeed, it is necessary to have a time like this when we look at our lives, our situations and our relationship with God and with one another, as well as discover the weak point and make an effort to make a change. The scripture says we must take our wrongdoings out of the sight of God and begin to live a new life in righteousness.
Indeed, these are very significant times in the life of the nation with regard to the elections. Those of us who are Christians should begin to look at what we are doing in order to make the country be a better place. Or what we have failed to do in order to make the country better than it is. And those who have the responsibility of leading us and are of the Christian faith need to do a lot of self-examination and forgiveness for whatever way they may have not lived up to expectations as Christians in government. And the rest of us not in government, what are we doing to make the country better, and the people’s welfare well taken care of?
After all, whatever we do has a positive or negative impact not only on us, but also on our nation and others. There is a scripture that says ‘whatever you do to the least of my brethren do unto me.’ This should also be at the back of our minds at this time of renewal of life. You know spiritual life or life in the spirit is a relationship with God, and it is He that measures whether we are doing well or not. He is the One that is in a position to measure our compliance or non-compliance. But if you are going to look at it from the point of view of what we can see or what we can judge in terms of relationship with one another, in terms of integrity, honesty, working for common good or looking out for one another’s welfare, you know that human being is on a continuous journey to become a better human being.
‘It Is The Time Serious Christians Get Sanctified’
(His Eminence, Most Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Udofia, Primate, The African Church)
Lenten season is a time we observe self-discipline more than ever and get closer to God. This is the time serious Christians get sanctified, and rededicate themselves to the things of the Lord. And Christians shouldn’t wait until Lent or Ash Wednesday before rededicating themselves to the Lord. It is something every Christian has to do everyday, because nobody knows the day of Christ’s second coming. And so, it is a very important church programme, especially for those who understand what it means, because it is a time people show remorse and humble themselves in the Lord’s presence. I think it is most appropriate because we have just witnessed the elections, and Lenten season is a time of remorsefulness; a time to humble themselves, including Nigerians that might have done anything wrong during the time of election. I think it is time for Nigerians that might have gone astray, as a result of selling or buying votes to ask for forgiveness and pardon from God, so they can be cleansed from every guilt.
By God’s grace, Nigeria will be blessed by the reason of this Christian event. For those who see it only as a ceremony and don’t really understand what it means or its value, it is unfortunate. If they understood, they wouldn’t take it as a yearly event but something that must occur on a daily basis. So, we are not to wait until it is Lent before we show penitence or do away with what is not right in our lives. Some people are doing it ceremonially that is why it looks as if there’s no serious impact on the society. But those that understand its value know it will add positive values to our national life. There are some who go to church but have not allowed the church to pass through them. While in the church, they are making or receiving phone calls. Such people have taken church events such as this as ceremony, but those who receive God’s word and allow it to make impact in their lives are the people that make great difference in the society.
‘We Should Focus Our Prayers On Nigeria’
(His Eminence Dr. Samuel Chukwuemeka Uche, Prelate, Methodist Church Nigeria)
Christians are really getting the benefits of Lenten season, which we observe every year, because when we pray, we don’t pray that our will be done but God’s will be done. We are getting the benefits because if not, Nigeria would have folded. So, Nigeria is not about Christians or Muslims but a sovereign nation belonging to all of us. Nigeria is a secular nation and whatever God allows to happen to us is His perfect will and everybody should submit him/herself to God’s will.
During this season, we should be focusing on the salvation that Jesus Christ brought to us, which was purposely to promote peace, harmony, togetherness, forgiveness, and forbearance and as we realise this, we should move away from sin and ensure we do the right thing through inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We should all pray and repent of our past mistakes and ask God for His favour, because the Bible says ‘if my people who are called by my name will pray, confess their sins and turn from their evil ways and seek my face I will hear from heaven and forgive their sins. I will heal their land.’
Nigeria needs healing in the face of all the bloodshed committed by our fellow compatriots. We need healing of the land and every hand must be on deck to focus on healing our beloved country Nigeria.
Essentially, Lent is a period of penitence, sober reflection and total submission to God, as we ask Him to forgive us from our past mistakes. And then pray and ask for His mercy upon us. If you read Isaiah 58:1-13 you will see the reason for Lent there.
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