Last Wednesday, Christians in Nigeria joined their counterparts all over the world to commence the 2019 Lenten Season, a 40-day period of fasting and abstinence that commenced with the marking of the faithful’s foreheads with ashes. This solemn exercise is a mark of repentance and to remind the faithful of their mortality.
At the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Maitama, the Parish priest Rev. Fr. Celestine Ejim warned against putting up outward appearances while neglecting the real tenets of the season. He said true repentance comes from within and that the three tenets of Lent which are fasting, abstinence and almsgiving should be practiced with all humility and seriousness. Bishop of Sokoto Diocese Mathew Hassan Kukah also said the season offers all Christians an opportunity to pause and reflect on the totality of their lives; the mistakes and the failures. He said, “Lent is a time to examine the state of our interior castles. This means we have to find space and time to be alone with God, to listen to His voice and inner promptings through His spirit. We live in a very noisy society and our God is not a God of noise. The encounter between Elijah and God testifies to that.”
He added, “When God invited him, God’s voice was neither in the strong breeze nor the earthquake, but in the gentle breeze (1 Kgs. 10:13ff). So, each of us must try and find time to be alone with God. It is wonderful to be with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, but even a little space in your house or room can be good enough place to meet Jesus during this season. Lent is marked by three key virtues which the Church encourages us to take to heart: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Very often, we think that prayer is something that can be taught to us by experts. Anyone who is able to communicate, no matter age or status, can pray. There are no prayer experts lurking around to be hired by us.”
We congratulate Christians across the country for witnessing another Lenten Season and join them in praying that they complete the season successfully. We urge all Christians to take the lessons of the season seriously and to apply them to their daily lives so that they can reap all the benefits associated with it. For us in Nigeria, the Lent came at a very auspicious moment, considering that we had just concluded our general elections and are on the verge of entering a new political era. It is a time therefore to intensify prayers so that all our elected leaders will rule the country in such a way that will improve the lives of the average Nigerian.
We also urge winners to, in the spirit of the season, be magnanimous in their victory, just as we urge losers to either accept defeat in good faith or choose the peaceful way of seeking justice. Christians should in this period renew their relationships with one another and extend hands of friendship to people of other faiths, as with such gesture peace can be experienced across the country. There is really no reason why adherents of the two major religions cannot co-exist peacefully. Clerics have a role to play in this regard. They should disabuse the minds of their congregants so that there will be a total change in perception and attitude.
One way of changing lives is through the lives that we live. We urge the faithful to observe the tenets of almsgiving religiously because at this point in the nation’s life, there are many people in need of help, especially those displaced by attacks and flood. It will be good for them to know that they are not alone. We pray that God will give all Christian faithful the grace to observe this season well, so that at the end they will reap the rewards of the season and that Nigeria as a country will also benefit through prayers offered.