Thursday, March 10, 2011

Season of Lent 2011

Lenten Season 2011

Ash Wednesday ushers the Faithful to enter into the Season of Lent for them to wade through the many traditional activities and religious practices that prepare them to listen to the God who speaks, look into the realities of their day-to-day living and the mess that they have made of it and, hopefully, to come out with a real appreciation of their true worth as human beings with the given potential to become sons and daughters of the God who made them. Lent is truly a period of grace, a holy season worth going through.

To help the faithful to make use of the time of Lent, the Church offers readings of the Holy Scripture and constant catechesis to bring the good news of salvation to the faithful, explain to them the true meaning of the religious practices that have been handed down through the centuries. The purpose is simple: to bring the faithful into a personal encounter with Jesus. Needless to say,l this is the main purpose of evangelization. Pope Benedict XVI in his address to the Visayan bishops in their ‘ad Limina’ visit last 18 February 2011 expressed the importance of bringing the faithful to a personal meeting with Christ when he said: “Your great task in evangelization is therefore to propose a personal relationship with Christ as key to complete fulfillment.” Then he contended, “ In so doing each Catholic will grasp in his or her innermost depths the life-transforming fact that God exists, that he loves us, and that in Christ he answers the deepest questions of our lives.”

The innermost quest of man to know the meaning of life, to search for life of fulfillment and of happiness, continues. Unfortunately, this pursuit is muddled by the problems that one faces. In the Philippines, extreme poverty, lack of work opportunities, out-migration, widespread lack of food, have served as stumbling blocks to this pursuit to happiness. The common saying that comes out from this: “how can one preach to people with empty stomach?” The Church knows they are all economic ills which are beyond the ambit of its competence. But they do have serious implications to the Church as witness of the Gospel as well as its acceptance by the hearers. Hence, she cannot simply turn away her attention from it. She has to address it. And then there is the spirit of the world that has crept into the Christian consciousness. It comes in varied faces – secularism, consumerism, materialism. The basic message that it proudly preaches to society is man can plot his own destiny. Hence, he can live independently from God and live a life of self-sufficiency, free to choose the path to trod on. Science, technology, new inventions give him this confirmation and assurance. Indeed God is not needed – God is dead.

Lent is the right moment to help our people see themselves again, appreciate their dignity as children of God, re-establish priorities with God as the foundation. To do that, the Church introduces Christ the Redeemer into their lives and help them meet Christ in a personal and intimate manner, that is, not only to know him in their mind , but also to rediscover Him as the One and True meaning of their life, feel His unconditional love. It is then hoped that with the help of the Holy Spirit they may gain that deep insight that would transform the perspective of their whole being leading to a radical change, finally placing Him as the priority of their heart and mind.

So, the Season of Lent with its catecheses, liturgical rites, and other religious practices, does not just teach the contents of our Christian Faith. It is at the same time an instrument, a tool, to help bring the Good News to our people. It too is a medium that has its own hidden message, that is, God is not an idea to be taught, a doctrine to be memorized, set of rules to be routinely followed. Rather, God is a person who engages you and me in a personal conversation and a lively dialogue, a God who listens to the cries of the poor and the lowly, a Jesus who touches the eyes of the blind in order to open them to the beauty of creation, who consoles a weeping mother by raising back to life her son, a Jesus who blesses children, a Jesus who asks for water to drink from a Samaritan woman, a Jesus who cares, a Jesus who is alive.

Lent then gives service to this kind of evangelization, that is, to experience God personally and deeply. It hopes that through these forty days of religious exercises and heavy catecheses our faithful could encounter the true personal God of their Faith.