Musings on the Lenten Season

  1. Today, our country Nigeria is confronted with multiple security challenges such as the unwholesome activities of killer-herdsmen, commercial kidnapping (especially of school children), Boko Haram insurgency, herder-farmer clashes and agitations by separatists. This is in addition to the hash economic condition and lack of employment. It is amidst these challenges that the Lenten Season offers an opportunity for prayer, reflection and introspection towards finding our balance as individuals and a state.

 

  1. The Season of Lent was ushered in on 17/02/2021 with Ash Wednesday celebration. During that solemn ceremony, the Christian faithful were urged to embrace prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The period which is in imitation of Christ who fasted for 40 days and nights (Cf. Matthew 4:1-11), invites Christians to imitate the Master. What is more, Lent is a moment of grace and spiritual rejuvenation which obliges believers to forego the pleasures of choicest foods and drinks in order to give in charity.

 

  1. Interestingly, it is apparent that Ash Wednesday is the only day you attend your burial while still alive. This is because the words, “Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return” are the exact words the preacher would use at your funeral. In a society where most people value power and material possessions over and above people, we are reminded that in the end, what matters is, how many lives we touched.

 

  1. Ash Wednesday is the day in which the reality of the finite nature of life dawns on us. That we are clay and we shall return to mother earth where moth, rust and decay shall be our friends eternally (Cf. Matthew 6:19), should actually make us humble. This should set us thinking about what really counts. In a nation where some people feed fat on insurgency, engage in ethnic profiling, see kidnapping as a cash and carry business and engage in Ghana-must-go politics, it is crucial to realize that life is short.

 

  1. It is a day which reminds us that someday, our expensive cars, wardrobe, gold groceries, mansions, Gucci and Gabbana et al, would in the long run, be useless to us and or relished by others who did not labour for them. This shows that rather that amassing wealth, what would stand the test of time is value orientation in terms of transfer of values to the young.

 

  1. It is a day that sets us thinking about the fleeting nature of the things we hold dear: Power, social status and knowledge (certificates). The reality of nakedness, fragility and futility lay before us. It connects us with the ancients like the people of Nineveh who obliged the Prophet Jonah, wore sackcloths and mourned in ashes (Jonah 3:6) – A sign of total submission, self-abnegation and surrender to the will of God. As such, we are called to embrace custody of the eye, avoid the sins of the flesh, resist pride, imitate Jesus (the new Adam), use our gifts wisely, worship God alone and take to reading the Scriptures.

 

  1. It is a day that salvific truths confront us. While the Ash shouts loudly, “I am a sinner,” the cross on our foreheads made from the Ash sings: “I have a Saviour.” These beautiful lines reveal the importance of our redemption in Christ (Cf. John 3:16). The Ash says to each of us: “You are only a wayfarer.” Little wonder, our lives often pass away swiftly like grass and we return to clay. The Bible asserts: “Our span is 70 years or 80 for those who are strong” (Psalm 90:10).

 

  1. It is a time we are urged to fast from mundane desires, pray ardently and mortify the flesh. It is a period in which vain loss, gluttony and drunkenness as well as petty jealousy, backbiting and wickedness ought to give way to the life of the spirit. While reflecting on the Via Dolorosa – Stations of the Cross, we are charged to be the modern Simon of Cyrene, Veronica, women of Jerusalem and Joseph of Arimathea.

 

  1. Since the Church has given us the chance to experience our death while still alive, it is essential to imagine how we would lay in the coffin, how our bodies might be burnt or even eaten by wild animals and how some people we expect to mourn us dearly would care less. Chances are too that those we died for while alive might not even attend our funeral. This should make us foolish about the things of this world and wise stewards of the kingdom.

 

  1. During this Pious Season, while we recall that the major departing points between Islam and Christianity is 30/40 days of fasting, for the People of the Book, prayer, fasting, charity, scripture reading (Quran and Bible) and reflection are universal truths. These faiths also agree that fasting and prayer provides adherents with a tapestry of spiritual insights meant for their good. Also, penance and mortification are viewed as virtues which help believers to address sinful personal habits like masturbation, sexual immodesty, gossips and nagging. Sacrifices made are geared towards seeking for mercy in order to relish God’s benevolence. This is the time to intercede for our country.

 

  1. It is incumbent on political, religious and traditional leaders to return our country to its days of glory. We ought to use this opportunity to appropriate the spiritual succour that we need to overcome the demons that constitute pain in the neck of our nation. While Christians who carry the Ashes on their foreheads as a mark of redemption ought to use the ancient artilleries of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to turn things around, other people of goodwill should collaborate with them to deliver our country from dangerous pirates. Let us approach Easter with boldness and great expectation that we shall overcome. Have a grace-filled Lenten Season!

 

Fr. Dyikuk is a Lecturer of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Editor – Caritas Newspaper and Convener, Media Team Network Initiative (MTNI), Nigeria.

 

 

 

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