Fr. Dr. Avin Kunnekkadan SVD
The season of lent is a time of retreat, a time for self reflection and spiritual growth. It is special time of grace to come closer to God and closer to one another in need.
We have began the holy season of Lent with the Ash Wednesday. ‘Ash Wednesday’ is so called because of the imposition of ashes on the foreheads of the faithful. This symbolic action reminds us of a truth that ‘we are dust and unto dust we shall return.’ Hence, ashes are a sign of our mortality. It also serves as a reminder of the call to repentance, which means, a change of mind, heart and vision.
Lent is a reminder of the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert, before taking up the mission he received from his Father at his baptism. If we enjoy this desert experience, by being faithful to its interior silence and stillness, we will see that the desert is not deserted, but filled with grace. It is not a diversion from the Kingdom, but its true portal.
During the entire Lenten period, the Church offers us God’s Word with particular abundance. By meditating and internalizing the Word in order to live it every day, we learn a precious and irreplaceable form of prayer; by attentively listening to God, who continues to speak to our hearts, we nourish the itinerary of faith initiated on the day of our Baptism. Prayer also allows us to gain a new concept of time: without the perspective of eternity and transcendence, in fact, time simply directs our steps towards a horizon without a future. Instead, when we pray, we find time for God, to understand that his “words will not pass away” (cf. Mk. 13:31), to enter into that intimate communion with Him “that no one shall take from you” (Jn. 16: 22), opening us to the hope that does not disappoint, eternal life.
In synthesis, the Lenten journey, in which we are invited to contemplate the Mystery of the Cross, is meant to reproduce within us “the pattern of his death” (Ph. 3:10), so as to effect a deep conversion in our lives; that we may be transformed by the action of the Holy Spirit, like St. Paul on the road to Damascus; that we may firmly orient our existence according to the will of God; that we may be freed of our egoism, overcoming the instinct to dominate others and opening us to the love of Christ.
The Lenten period is a favorable time to recognize our weakness and to accept, through a sincere inventory of our life, the renewing Grace of the Sacrament of Penance, and walk resolutely towards Christ with righteous deeds.
Righteous deeds are deeds that are ‘right’, that is, actions that respect relationships and enhance them. Three specific righteous deeds are mentioned in Gospel as: giving alms, praying, and fasting. But doing these deeds, important as they are, is not sufficient. Besides the ‘doing’ we are challenged to do them in the right way. We are to pray, fast, and be generous out of love: love of God, love for our own dignity, and love for others. Fasting with a gloomy face, giving alms to receive the praise of others, and praying loudly at streetcorners, doesn‘t find favor in the sight of God. St. Paul reminds us: “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2)
Lent is the customary time for receiving the Sacrament of Confession or Reconciliation. The Scripture readings throughout Lent are filled with images of God’s forgiving love. “For gracious and merciful is He, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.” (Joel 2:13b)
Let us accept the grace of God and be transformed during this season of Lent. By our Lenten observance, we may become the people God wants us to be. Lent offers to all believers, a difficult task and a great challenge: to purify our souls and to come home to God. God continually calls each of us to become a ‘new person in Christ’.
Prayer Lord, during these forty days, we ask that with each day of this sacred vigil, everything in us that separates us from your perfect will would be pruned from our hearts and souls. In this blessed freedom may we experience a powerful anointing of your Holy Spirit. Filled with confidence and trust may we proclaim with the mother of Jesus, “Let it be done to me, according to your Word.”
May God richly bless everyone who is sacrificing their comfort and convenience to ‘speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves!