Reflection: Lent, a graceful gift to Christians

Like Jesus, a Christian has to undergo the same paschal mystery. That is, to die from one’s old self and to rise with Christ as a new man. In photo is the detail of the dead Christ and risen Christ (behind it) by National Artist Napoleon Abueva at the UP Chapel. photo.

“Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). We heard this from a priest last Ash Wednesday while marking our foreheads with the sign of the cross from ashes. To change our ways and to believe in the Good News was the very message of Jesus when— after he stayed in the desert for forty days and was tempted by the devil—preached in Galilee after John was arrested. This is a call for all to change our old ways so that we can truly do the will of God for us. And in this time of Lent, we have enough time to pause, pray, reflect, fast and change..

Lent is a joyful season of repentance and penance. It is a time to prepare for the celebration of the Paschal mystery, which is the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Like Jesus, a Christian (a follower of Christ) has to undergo the same paschal mystery. That is, to die from one’s old self and to rise with Christ as a new man.

Lent is a great season of grace It is time to renew our spirits, to purify our hearts, and to serve God in freedom and free will. Lent teaches us how to set our hearts for God through the Paschal mystery. It is a long period of preparation as it starts on Ash Wednesday until the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.

Lent is a great time for renewal. Renewal of our minds and hearts as Christians, and so we are invited and asked to examine and evaluate ourselves if we are still trekking the right path and direction. After the examination of conscience, Christians with contrite hearts shall be able to accept the many misgivings, shortcomings, faults and failures, and sins that have been done that offended and displeased God and our neighbor. Lent will help and lead us to realize our sinfulness and pride that had affected tremendously our relationship with God and others.

The Church encourages the faithful to fast and abstain; as tradition and practicality allows, fasting is required from ages 18 to 60 and abstinence from age 14. Fasting and abstinence cleanse our thoughts and desires. Almsgiving is actually a just sharing of one’s goods with our neighbor, especially the less fortunate and abandoned. Prayer makes us closer to God and keeps our relationship stronger.

Turn away from sin.

Sin is understood as an offense or violation of a given morals or laws. For the Church, it is the Commandments found in the Scriptures. Sin is committed by a person or a group of persons. Sin is both personal and social. It can be a sin of commission or a sin of omission. Both kinds of sin have its own weight and effect of guilt and disturbance.

The sin of commission is where the individual has actually committed the offense or sin; like murder, abortion, robbery, rape, and arson, among others. While the sin of omission is when the offense or sin has not been actually done by the person(s) but in one way or another a part of the offense has been done. This kind of sin is mostly ignored and has not been given due importance by most people though it has the same weight as committing a sin of commission.

With the sin of omission, for instance, a person has witnessed murder, robbery, extortion, rape, human and drug trafficking, or arson but refuses to testify and stand as witness to the crime for justice’s sake. Or, when one has knowledge of logging activities in the forest without permit, and irresponsible and open-pit mining that destroys our mountains and watersheds. By remaining a silent conduit and or beneficiary to cases of bribery, graft and corruption; or by remaining silent even if one has witnessed cases of tortures, disappearances, killings, and land grabbing. These are examples of social sin and the people are answerable to their God. Social sins are very much present and experienced right now by us in our country and in the world today.

Be faithful to the Gospel.

The Gospel is Good News. And the Good News is Jesus Christ. For Christians, Jesus the Son of God was made flesh and became man like us, and He reconciled us to the Father through his death and rising from the dead. To be faithful to the Word of God means following and living out the message of Jesus proclaimed in the Scriptures and of the same Jesus who journeyed with us until the end time. If we believe in the Gospel who is Jesus Himself, we take our own cross, believe, and follow Him. Fidelity to Jesus’ Good News will keep us in His heart. And we will grow in holiness and wisdom with the ability of knowing what is right and good that is pleasing to God.

Let us therefore seize this moment of Lent for it is when we humble ourselves and surrender our human weakness to our Father that we become strong in spirit. We will be blessed by God’s mercy and love and will become worthy of this graceful gift called Lent. Remember, Lent is a joyous time to prepare us for Easter. As we “turn away from sin and become faithful to the Gospel,” let us reflect and ask our selves:

Am I ready to leave my “old self” (immature attitude, sinful state, pride) to embrace Christ and believe in His message of forgiveness, salvation and love?

Am I ready to be transformed in the love and mercy of God so that I can see Him in my brothers and sisters?

Am I ready to believe in the Gospel, follow Jesus’ word, and grow in holiness?

Am I ready to stand for the truth and work for justice and peace in my country and the word today so there will be genuine change in our society?

Am I ready to rise with Jesus on Easter?

Prayer: Our Loving and Merciful Father, in this Lenten season, make our days holy as we pray, fast, give alms, and do charity works in little and big ways. We pray that in this time of salvation, you will fill us with the Holy Spirit, purify our hearts to recognize you and strengthen us in your love; through Christ our Lord with the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.