Lent, time of reconciliation – Lent, Time to Take a ‘U’ Turn

Jose Therampil sdb, Don Bosco College, (Karunapuram -506 151,Warangal (Dt) TS)

(Note: Sin, offending or pleasing God, making reparation for sins etc. are words and phrases used when one speaks of Lent or penance, but often without knowing precisely what we are talking  about. God is Sachidananda and none of us can either offend nor please Him. We can please or displease our neighbor. For a clear understanding sin and virtue should be reduced to “using people” or “being useful to people”. We use people when we make them work for us without giving proper salary, which is sin. When we comfort people or help those in need,  we are being useful to them, whiich is virtue. Another central point for lent or spirituality is “Reconciliation” as the writer points out. That is  why Jesus tells us: Leave your sacrifice at the altar, go first to get reconciled to the one who has something against you, not anyone you  are against. How many of us are free from using people whom we meet from dawn to dusk, to James Kottorgain something from them? And to how many of those whom we meet daily, do we try to be useful? Does that thought ever come to us, when we meet a person at all? Usually it is what can I get from him/her, not what can I give him/her. Sin and virtue have to be placed in this context that is, when we exploit or help people in need. Hence also the question: If you don’t love your neighbour  whom you see, how can you love God whom you don’t see. Sin and virtue is in human relations, not in your relation with God whom you can never offend or please, He being “Sachidananda” james kottoor, editor)

 Lent is the Church's springtime. Out of the darkness of sin's winter emerge a people, the Church–reborn through baptism into their Lord's death and resurrection from the grave. The Bible does not mention the custom of Lent, however, the practice of repentance and mourning in ashes is found in 2 Samuel 13:19; Esther4:1; Job 2:8; Daniel 9:3; and Matthew 11:21.

Lent is a time when all the serious minded followers of Christ try their best to renew their lives.  We will definitely miss a great opportunity if we let Lent go by without trying to renew ourselves.  The example of our master and Lord Jesus in the desert, struggling with the cunning tempter should stir something in us.  Lent is especially set aside by the Church as a time when we should remember Christ’s suffering and death on our behalf. Jesus became like us in all things, except sin, in order to make it possible for us to become like him – the beloved of his Father and co-heirs with him in the kingdom of heaven.

During Lent, we are preparing for the death and Resurrection of Christ, which is the central and crowning act of God’s love in the divine drama of our liberation from sin. Lent is a time of reconciliation. A time when we make space in our lives to think about our relationship with our heavenly Father and the ways in which we are responding or failing to respond to his love and care for us. The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer  — through prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial — for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Western Christianity (with the exception of the Archdiocese of Milan which follows the Ambrosian Rite), Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Holy Saturday. The six Sundays in Lent are not counted among the forty days because each Sunday represents a "mini-Easter", a celebration of Jesus' victory over sin and death.

The Bible is filled with stories of God’s greatest servants battling to overcome sin. In nearly every case, they had to learn difficult and sometimes very painful lessons. When examined collectively, Moses, Noah, David, Samuel, Peter and many others are seen to have fought every kind of problem known to man.

Paul represents a classic example of how one of God’s greatest servants fought to overcome sin. At the end of his life, he was able to say that he had “fought the good fight,” and that he had “run his course” knowing that a “crown” awaited him. But this did not happen without much wrestling, pressing, running, fighting and warring against his human nature. Christianity is an all-out war! But it is a war that the Christian should expect to win!—as long as he or she continues to draw close to God to obtain strength for overcoming.

Christian history records many examples of persons who have come to Christian faith much like the woman at the well. John Wesley studied at Christ College of Oxford University for five years, receiving a M.A. degree. He was ordained in the Church of England and served as an “Oxford Don,” or assistant professor of religion, for almost ten years. He had no inward assurance of salvation and felt himself a failure in his ministry although he was outwardly pious. He, and a small group of friends, including his brother Charles, got up at 4:00 o’clock every morning and prayed for two hours. They would then read the Bible for an hour before going to the jails and hospitals to minister. In fact, the Methodist Church got its name from the methodical way in which Wesley and his “Holy Club” lived.

Jesus possessed the divine nature within himself – it was unified completely with his human nature in some mysterious way, but even Jesus was dead tired at the end of his time of testing. So will we be. We will get tired if we face our temptations head on. I believe that Lent is about pushing the envelope of our faith – in what new ways can we strip back our lives to allow God to enter in? What temptations can we look squarely in the eye and defeat? We know that in our time of testing we will be tended not by angels, but by the Spirit of Christ himself – it is our choice, however, to enter the wilderness – and we take that step all on our own. Let us be strong in faith. Let us not depend on our strength, but on God’s strength.  He will not let us down.

The parable of the Prodigal son is so rich that it is challenging us quite a lot, and offering just as much hope as it does challenge. So if we take away any concepts from this parable it should be these.   First, God is infinitely merciful. God is the Father in the parable. He is always there to take us back after even the longest periods of recklessness. Second, we must repent and make amends before we can be forgiven and restored to our former honor. Third, we must imitate God and be willing to forgive and forget the past sins of our friends, family, and co-workers, and all that we come across. Yes, forgive and forget. Because if we forgive someone his sins and yet always lord his wrongdoings over him, we have not restored him to his former position, but are rather keeping him as a slave. We must be willing to rejoice when someone lost is found, even though we feel cheated because nobody has rejoiced for us who have been found all along. But this is the kingdom of God we are talking about, not a human kingdom. In the human kingdom we rejoice when people are treated justly. But in the kingdom of God, God rejoices when even one lost person is found, and we as Christians rejoice with him.

Many of us have, many a time, been prodigal, ungrateful, selfish sons and daughters of our loving and merciful heavenly Father.  But He is still a Father of infinite mercy and unconditional love. We may have squandered the precious gifts that our heavenly Father gave us with so much of love.  We may have abused our freedom and broken His laws.  We may have descended to the deepest

All of us need to take a ‘U’ turn, a change of heart in order to improve ourselves.  Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change.  To be perfect is to change often.” Those of us who wish to bring about a perfect change must bring about more changes in our lives.

We are all sinners in greater or lesser degree.  We all offend the good God in manifold ways. But we know that we have a God of mercy, a God who knows and understands our weaknesses and frailties.  No matter how many and how serious our sins may have been, no matter how low we may have fallen, the mercy and forgiveness of God is ever there for our asking.

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