by Dennis Espada
As a child, Lent was not my favorite time of the year. It is a week without cartoons on T.V.; a week less playing for children. Church processions, masses and the pabasa–all these are associated with what I call then as a gloomy and boring season. One could not compare this day to the joyous gift-giving activity during Christmas, or to the delightful dating on Valentine’s.
Growing ten years older (or more), I begin to understand why Lent has become a traditional manner of personal sacrifice for faith and hope.
But what is Lent? For Christians, Lent symbolizes the forty days of Jesus Christ’s fasting in the wilderness. It was expected of them to manifest repentance, grief and personal sacrifice so that they may be able to experience a higher level of spirituality along “God’s will.” It precedes the Christian holiday of Easter.
We commemorate Lent by keeping in mind the Jubilee theme of “proclaiming freedom to all inhabitants of the land.”
Let us begin with repentance. Sins occur because we have shortcomings and mistakes. Thus, in the process of repentance, it is necessary to point out our shortcomings and mistakes so that sins may be avoided in the future. A passage from Job 11:13 says, “Put your heart right, Job. Reach out to God. Put away evil and wrong from your home. Then face the world again, firm and courageous. Then all your troubles will fade from your memory, like floods that are past and remember no more.”
To put away evil and wrong, we have to make mechanisms for self-correction. What use do we get if we repent today but commit a sin tomorrow? This way of life is called split-level Christianity.
Understandably, the road to righteousness is difficulty and thorny. In fact, it is so difficult that we tend to vacillate and succumb to temptations we can’t resist.
We should make effort to do away with our selfishness. Christ said: “We cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24), “He who loves faather and mother more than me is not worthy of me…” (Matthew 10:37-38), and “Anyone who starts to plow and then starts looking back is of no use for the Kingdom of God” (Lke 9:62).
The path to renewal is quite similar with regards to repentance. In the midst of wrongdoings, we realize the need to make things new. Second Corinthians 5:17 says that a “person who is in Christ is a new creature; the old things are passed away…” This passage refers to change that is taking place in the consciousness of an individual as well as his/her lifestyle. Although change comes from the internal, it cannot be separated from changes going on in our society where the individual lives and moves and from where he/she draws his/her being.
A person who has really renewed and transformed should in any way engage in the ministry of making things new. This involves thoughts and actions that are revolutionary in essence. Christ who said, “behold, I make things new” was killed by the Roman authorities because he dedicated his who life to such a ministry.
No one patches up an old coat with a new piece of cloth, says Matthew 9:17. It further says, “nor does anyone pour new wine into used wineskins, for the skins will burst, the wine will pour out, and the skins will be ruined. Instead, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins, and both will keep in good condition.” You see: the new contradicts with the old. If we truly want to renew ourselves, we have to induce the downfall of the old to be followed by the victory of the new.
When many Filipinos took to EDSA and other places to demand President Erap Estrada’s resignation last January 2001, they wanted changes in the government and society…thus, putting an end to corruption, poverty and injustice. They saw Erap’s regime not working for the interests and aspirations of majority of Filipinos. That’s the reason why they bravely defied the authority of Erap until the day he resigned from office.
Well, Lent also speaks about turning our hearts to the poor and underprivileged. As for urban-dwelling professionals, both young and old, they begin to look at the world from the eyes of those who are hungry and helpless. They become more interested in joining and sympathizing with the toiling masses than being too busy about their careers.
But what is inspiring, though, are those chivalrous beings who have transcended from their old selves and took up the cross. They are the selfless souls engaged in a life-and-death struggle for social liberation. #
(This was first published at Insurance World monthly magazine, April 2001 issue.)