Lent: A Season Of God’s Grace and Favour
Rdgs: (1st: Joel 2, 12-18; Ps 50; 2nd: 2Cor 5, 20-6, 2: Gos: Mt 6, 1-6. 16-18)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today is Ash Wednesday, so in a special way, we begin the season of Lent and our journey with Christ. This journey will last for about six weeks. So, today the church reminds us that the season of Lent presents us a golden opportunity to re-live the Paschal Mystery of our Lord Jesus Christ. The season of Lent exposes us to a new dimension of our Christian life and journey. It also, equips us for the glory of Easter. This is why the Holy Father, Pope Francis tells us that: “Lent is a time of renewal for the whole Church, for each community and every believer. Above all it is a “time of grace…A merciful heart does not mean a weak heart. Anyone who wishes to be merciful must have a strong and steadfast heart” (Message for Lent, 2015).
Our first reading from the prophet Joel is a call to repentance through fasting and abstinence which are two important characteristics and aspects of Lent. In this reading, the prophet informs us that God is waiting for us to return to him: “Come back to me with all your heart, fasting , weeping and mourning…turn to the Lord your God again for he is all tenderness and compassion.” As a loving father, he is ready to welcome us back if we chose to return to him. However, we have to show a sincere repentance for all the times we have offended Him. Today as ever before, God has extended an invitation to us and, he expects us to respond positively. In our second reading, Paul encourages us to reconcile with God. Most importantly, he reminds us that the season of Lent is a special season of God’s Grace and favour. He says: “As his fellow workers, we beg you once again not to neglect the grace of God…now is the favorable time, this is, the day of salvation”. How then can we reconcile with God season? It is by reconciling with our neighbours, brothers, sisters, parents, and children. It is by showing concern for others and our world instead of being indifferent to is as Pope Francis teaches us this Lent. It is most importantly by reconciling with those we have declared as our archenemies and all those who have offended us in one way or the other. On our part too, we must be humble enough to ask for forgiveness from those we have offended. This season therefore, affords us great opportunity to rebuild both our relationship with Christ and our neighbours. God is waiting, so we can meet him through the sacrament of confession. This is why this season of Lent which we begin today is a season of Grace and Favour.
The gospel simply shows us the best ways to observe this season of Lent. First it reminds us of our Christian duties during this period which includes: Prayer, Abstinence, and Charity. These are the means of edifying and strengthening our spiritual lives. However, in order to achieve the best result this Period of Lent, Jesus also gives us three important instructions. So, if we wish to carry out our duties well this Lent, we must bear these instructions in mind throughout this period. The first is: “Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice.” The second is: “When you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites…pray to your father who is in that secret place.” The third is: “When you fast, do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do…but when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your father who sees all that is done in secret.” This means that since it is our voluntary wish to walk with Christ, therefore we must do it humbly, joyfully and cheerfully. This is because “if we die with Him we shall also rise with Him” (2 Tim, 2, 11). Therefore, our Prayer, Abstinence, and Charity this period must be done in such a way that God alone will take all the glory.
Brothers and sisters, if we do this well, this season will indeed be a season of grace and favour because, God will surely hear our prayers and forgive us our sins. So, as we take the ash upon our foreheads this Ash Wednesday, let us ask God for the grace to begin and also complete this journey during this period of Lent. Finally and most importantly, our prayer throughout this season should be: “Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.”
Peace be with you!