• The first is prayer; the second is fasting
Continued from last week
The first is prayer. In the Garden of Gethsamane when His hour came, Jesus noticed His closest disciples Peter, James and John sleeping, a sign of spiritual laxity. He said to them; “Arise Let us be on our way (Mk 14: 42).” This was an invitation to prayer and spiritual vigilance. He calls them to wake up from their spiritual slumber and moral lethargy. Lent is a time to cultivate a good habit of prayer; praying for the divine office, Stations of the Cross, the rosary, Eucharistic adoration, and leading a life of ceaseless prayer. St. Peter warns us: “The devil, our adversary, is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. We must stand up to him strong in faith (1 Pet. 5:8-9)”. Addressing the Church in Sardis, the Church that is asleep, St. John says: “I know you are considered to be alive but you are dead. Wake up. Strengthen what remains to you but is on the verge of dying.” Lent, therefore, is a time to pray persistently and relentlessly. The second is fasting which involves repentance and interior conversion. Sin ruptures our relationship and friendship with God and disfigures the image of God in us. Sin deceives and destroys. “ Sin takes us farther than we want to go, it keeps us longer than we want to stay and it costs us more than we are willing to pay’’ as with the prodigal son.
Again and again, despite our best intentions, we make wrong choices, do bad things and hurt those we love. And on the heels of these personal failures always comes the temptation to despair in God’s mercy and shrug off holiness as an esoteric idea that can only be imagined but never attained. During this season, we are called to turn away from sin and return to God. When the prodigal son realised his sins and folly, St. Luke tells us that, “he got up and said, I shall leave this place, the place of sin, and go back to my father and say I have sinned (Luke15).” He realised the need to “arise and be on his way back home.’’ Lent is a time to make this journey. It is a time to test our willingness to walk boldly with Jesus; to leave our comfort zones; to discipline the flesh by mortification; to give up distorted goals; to ‘die’ to old ways and reject new temptations; to steadfastly look beyond the cross, confident that God’s love in Jesus Christ lives in us, and through us, and takes hope into the future.
To be continued next week.
• Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins is the Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos.
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