Lent is about dying to be born again
With Ash Wednesday, we enter a new season of Lent. In spite of the gloom and austerity usually associated with it, there’s actually something new and bright to it. That’s because Lent involves a certain dying to ourselves so we can be born again in Christ.
That’s the plain truth about Lent. All the sacrifices, mortifications and penance, the fasting and abstinence, are meant to cure us of our old man so we can be a new man in Christ.
Remember St. Paul to the Ephesians: “Put off…the old man…and be renewed in the spirit of your mind. And put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth.” (4,22-24)
We need to proclaim this truth of our faith more widely and vigorously these days. Even if, thank God, we can still count on a large number of Christian faithful who still retain this understanding of Lent, we cannot be blind to a growing sector that seems oblivious to this reality.
To a certain extent, this truth is facing the possibility of an endangered species, what with all the secularizing elements around us now, the consumerism, the hedonism and greed, etc.
Our evangelization about Lent has to reach further than the usual traditional areas. It now has to enter deep into cyberspace, and has to tango and tangle hand-to-hand with current issues in the different fields of human affairs—business, politics, sciences, etc.
We have to find ways to make this truth shine out in all its glory. For, indeed, Lent is good news, not bad news. We need to show the whole happy truth about it, without avoiding and without getting entangled with its essentially penitential character.
With gift of tongues, with elegance and naturalness, let’s tell everyone we need to embrace the cross, the Cross of Christ, to be able to resurrect from our damaged, sinful nature.
Obviously, for this we have to recount the whole truth about ourselves. I know that there are all sorts of ideologies and isms about what and who we really are. We should not hesitate to offer the Christian view, using the appropriate terms and arguments to transmit it as integrally as possible.
Of course, we have to respect everyone’s views. No matter how different and even conflicting these views may be, let’s continue with an abiding dialogue in search for the whole truth about ourselves.
Toward this end, let’s foster friendship and mutual trust always. Truth should always be pursued in charity. Its search should not be just a matter of who is right and who is wrong, but more of growing in our love for one another, since it’s love that ultimately makes truth come out.
This is the “game plan” lived by Christ himself even offering his life on the Cross for it. With it we can hope to soften the rough and sharp edges of our differences, paving the way for true unity among ourselves.
We ought to be one since we are all children and people of God, and we are all brothers and sisters, regardless of our differences.
Lent should put our full attention to the necessity of the Christ’s Cross in our life. It is what re-creates us. It perfects the precarious condition of our first creation, when we only knew how to enjoy the good but would not know what to do when we get into the ways of evil.
The Cross brings us to Christ. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt 16,24) This is actually a formula we should always engrave in our hearts.
The Cross teaches us the true and complete ways of love. We often have our own ideas of love that are usually sweet and sugary, but actually incomplete, even twisted and detached from its true source and pattern.
The Cross extends the dimensions of our life, going beyond our natural limits so it can merge with God’s own life. We are meant for this. We have been designed for this.
That we have the senses, that we have intelligence and will, that we have been given grace—all these are meant to enable us to enter into communion with God and with everyone else. They are not for us to enjoy by ourselves.
It’s the Cross that makes all these feasible. And Lent is there is to remind us of it, and to rehearse and prepare us for it.
(Fr. Cimagala is the Chaplain of Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise (CITE), Talamban, Cebu City. Email: email@example.com)