- Fr. Daniel Okafor
Fr. Daniel's Corner / March 27, 2022
Lent: A Time for Metanoia
The Lenten period is a privileged opportunity for a new growth in Christian discipline, in Christian patience, courage, charity, purity, prayer life and holiness. A time of conversion from self-centered to God-centered, from slavery to sin and selfishness to a life of freedom and grace, from a life of bareness to a life of fruitfulness, and from a life too full of earthly preoccupation to a life oriented toward the kingdom of God. God’s revelation of himself to Moses is a testament of his everlasting love. He revealed himself as a God whose fire of love is never diminished (Ex 3:1-12). The I AM whose love is constant, and ever present; the God who was, who is, and who is to come. Thus, he comes to deliver his people. Moses championed this course of liberation through a pillar of cloud and conquered inhabitants of various countries. The people were expected to respond to God’s love and compassion with fidelity, goodness, and obedience, the normal expectation of anyone who has received so much beneficence from their Lord, but they did not. Instead, they responded to God’s immense goodness and compassion with infidelity, wickedness, idolatry, and rebellion. Then and again, the people sinned, committed all manner of abomination. God threatened them with destruction but at the intercession of Moses, his servant, he often relented. Yet, the people continued in their sin. Of course, the wages of sin is death (Rm 6:23), the consequence of Israel’s unfaithfulness was that the generation of Israelites who left Egypt did not reach the promised land; they did not live to see the inheritance (Jos 5:6).
However, the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ (Rm 6:23). As God delivered the people of Old through Moses, he saves us in Jesus Christ. We have been saved from slavery to sin and are now enroute to the Promised Land of heaven. Just as Israelites passed through the Red Sea and were baptized in Moses, we too have passed through the waters of baptism and are baptized in Christ. And as they were fed with manna from heaven, we are being fed with the Body of Christ. As they were guided with a pillar of cloud in the day and pillar of fire at night, we too are guided by the word of God, which is a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths (Ps 119:105).
Our salvation in Christ cannot be taken for granted. Our religious activism makes little sense if we are not bearing the appropriate fruits. Our faith must bear fruit (Mtt 21:18-46). Our life must radiate the glory of God because we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Mtt 5:13-16). As we serve the God of love, Jesus commands us to love one another as God loves us. He went on to say that others will know that we are his disciples if we love one another (Jn 13:34-35). We will perish like the disobedient Israel unless we repent (Lk 13:3,5). Remarkably, God’s mercy and compassion will allow us a second, third and even a tenth chance, but sooner or later there will be a last chance; and we do not know when it will be. There is still time to repent, and that time is NOW, and it shortens with each passing day for each one of us. He has shown his goodness in various ways and in a definite way in his Son. We are called to respond to his goodness with similar goodness in our hearts. With our baptism we are expected to put on the heart and mind of Jesus Christ and act as Christ would (Phil 2:2-5).
Lent is indeed a great time of self-mortification. Christ warns us against hatred, unforgiveness, and selfishness. It is natural that the more the body or the material aspect of our existence is given attention, the less our spirit grows. It has been demonstrated by wise men and women all through the ages that when human beings overindulge their bodies and engage in the pleasures of the flesh without sufficient restraint, their spirit hardly grows. That is why spiritual mystics through the ages often recognize the critical importance of fasting and other acts of penance in fostering spiritual growth. For Christians, fasting is not limited to skipping food or drink, but also restraining one’s appetite for wealth accumulation, excessive entertainment and even from talking too much. It is believed that such mortification of the body will facilitate spiritual growth and maturity.
Christ teaches that our bodies are to be kept holy and that only the pure shall see God, but many Christians are hooked to a life of fornication, masturbation, adultery, pornography, and ever newer expressions of sexual perversions. Christ teachers us to seek first the kingdom and others, but many Christians are caught up in the blind and unmitigated pursuit of material power and privilege, given no heed to Jesus’ admonition. Also, Christ teaches us to forgive, yet many Christians have continued to stock up offenses and hurts of their neighbor, and others have continued to subject fellow sinners to the most ruthless treatment. Christ urges us to take up our cross DAILY and follow him, but many Christians have abandoned their cross at the slightest hardship. Lent is still an acceptable time for Metanoia; to turn away from vices and turn to virtues.
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