We all have busy days with our work and good quality time with all our family, friends, relatives, and communities. Time goes so quickly before we realize a week is gone by Friday. Our engagement in social activities sometimes takes more precedence than spiritual. Going to church, praying has become a routine activity in everyone's life without realizing and welcoming Jesus in us. But there is a season to prepare us for the resurrection of Jesus Christ in our heart. The preparation is more like evaluating our-self to see where we stand in our Savior's resurrection. That is Lent. Lent is about identifying with temptation and suffering of Jesus Christ before we celebrate the resurrection on Easter. The better the preparation, the more efficient the celebration will be. The ultimate objective is conquering and victory over the sins forever.
Prepare the stage:
Revisiting and evaluating very often is essential to stay our lives spiritually connected with Jesus. Lent season has a vital meaning to realize and reflect the sufferings of Jesus Christ for our sins. The way Jesus bearing of our sin and death explains how the fasting and self-denial should be carried over to understand his love for those who are in Jesus Christ. So how we can prepare our self during the Lent season.
Six weeks of repentance before Easter is an essential aspect of the Lent season. The 40-day period starts with Ash Wednesday. Ashes placed in our forehead denote that we return to dust or ashes. Whatever sophistication and sinful life had been carried out should be discontinued. This process starts with repentance after realization of our sinful life. The official color for the Lent season is Purple. So the Churches are decorated with deep purple strips. Purple refers the repentance of sins.
Prayer, Fasting & Alms giving:
The three pillars of Lent are..
Repent our sins and pray for God's mercy. Repentance may allow God to forgive, restore and purify us. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Staying humble is the immediate reflection of the prayer. Also, pray for others. Below is the guideline provided by Pope Francis on How to pray. - Start praying for the closest for you, family & friends. - Pray for all parents & teachers - Pray for our Leaders - Pray for the weakest, sick, poor and all the souls - Pray for Self
"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours" (Mark 11:24).
Fasting and abstinence is a process of penance with self-denial and mortifying the flesh to prepare our self for God's grace. Bible teaches actively not to follow the desire of the flesh. So fasting denotes we are taking the first step to lead the spiritual life in Lent. "For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They conflict with each other so that you are not to do whatever you want" (Galatians 5:17). Catholic church regards to follow the fasting during Lent days particularly on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Friday's of Lent season. Also, it is important to remember Jesus had fasted 40 days and nights in the wilderness and ultimately won the Spiritual battle with Satan. We have a clear guideline from Bible on how to fast. "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:16-18).
Praying and helping for others are the selfless activity for humankind. Almsgiving provides an opportunity to help the poor and needy one. "Prayer is good with fasting and alms more than to lay up treasures of gold: For alms delivereth from death, and the same is that which purgeth away sins, and maketh to find mercy and life everlasting" (Tobit 12:8-9). Also, Jesus told us "when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" (Mt 6:2-3). Giving others is a good attitude to the community where we live. Basically we share all our blessings with others. "One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed". (Proverbs 19:17)
The day Jesus was Crucified on the cross manifest us the everlasting Love of Jesus for the humankind. He even prayed for his enemies just on the cross before his death. First Peter 3:18 tell us, "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit". Christ died for us to reconcile us with him.
Whatever technology or advancement in science, still everyone dies but death no longer holds Jesus; he triumphed over the death. "O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). So if we are in Jesus, we resurrect from death to live with Jesus. It denotes we should resurrect the sins to celebrate the victory of Jesus. Romans 6:3-5 says, "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection". The resurrection reminds - He is the ultimate sovereignty of Life and Death - He fulfills all the prophecy as The Son of God, The Messiah. - "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25), claims he is the path to the eternal life. It is the Triumph of every believer in Jesus Christ. Also, we should follow Jesus because He is our God, not just because of what He can do for us.
Lent season provides an opportunity to take a break during our busy time and measure the direction that we are leading on. Fasting for the namesake would not bring any good unless the real meaning of Lent season is well understood and followed. The ultimate purpose is to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ by realizing the sufferings, his Love and resurrect from our sins.
2. Washington, James. "Sin Doesn't Have to Win." The Triangle Tribune, vol. 17, no. 8, Charlotte Post Publishing Co., 3 May 2015, p. 6B.