Lent: A Season of God’s Grace and Favor
Readings: 1st: Joel 2:12-18; Ps 50; 2nd: 2 Cor 5:20-6, 2: Gos: Mt 6:1-6. 16-18
This brief reflection was written by Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans). He is a missionary in Puerto Rico. He is the Parish Priest of Parroquia la Resurrección del Senor, Canóvanas, and the Major Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), Circumscription of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Fr. Canice is a member of the Academy of Homiletics. For more details and comments contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Today is Ash Wednesday. So, we begin the season of Lent and a unique journey with Christ that will last for about six weeks. The Church reminds us that the season of Lent presents us with a golden opportunity to re-live Christ’s Paschal Mystery.
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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” (Message for Lent, 2015). Today, we shall receive ashes as a sacramental sign of our conversion.
Our first reading from the prophet Joel is a call to repentance through fasting and abstinence. They are two essential 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 sincere repentance for all the times we have offended Him. Today, 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 season of Grace and favor. He says: “As 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 can we reconcile with God this season? It is by reconciling with our neighbors, brothers, sisters, parents, and children. It is by showing concern for others and our world instead of being indifferent.
So, we have to reconcile with those we see as our arch-enemies. And also with all those who have offended us in one way or the other. On our part, we must be humble enough to ask for forgiveness from those we have offended. Therefore, this season affords us an excellent opportunity to rebuild our relationship with Christ and our neighbors. God is waiting. So, we can meet him through the sacrament of confession.
The gospel simply shows us the best ways to observe this season. First, it reminds us of our Christian duties during this period: prayer, abstinence, and charity. These are the means of edifying and strengthening our spiritual lives. Hence, Jesus gives us three important instructions to help us achieve this.
The first is: “Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice.” The second is: “Pray to your father, who is in that secret place.” The third is: “When you fast, do not put on a gloomy look…so that no one will know that you are fasting except your father who sees all that is done in secret.” This means that, as our voluntary wish to walk with Christ, we must do it humbly and joyfully, so that all glory will be given to God alone.
Brothers and sisters, if we do this well, this season will indeed be a season of Grace and favor because God will surely hear our prayers and forgive us our sins. So, as we accept ash this Ash Wednesday, let us ask God for the Grace to begin and complete this journey during this Lenten period. 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!