Saturday, March 03, 2012

Lenten Season 2012

Lenten Season is here again. It is a sacred time cherished by the Church for it opens up to her members the opportunity to connect their lives with Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. To go through the variegated religious practices lined up by the Church during these days of Lent is the way to personally encounter Christ, pray to Him, engage Him in a heart-to-heart talk, perhaps, wrestle with Him, and hopefully end up surrendering with that deep feeling that peace of soul has been achieved.
Hence, it is not true that the Catholic Church sets aside the forty days of the Season of Lent in order to make people who are happy unhappy; that she is a big killjoy damping an otherwise bright atmosphere with a suffocating air of sober and serious practices of strict penances, long drawn prayers, fasting and abstinence. The Church knows full well that no amount of human effort can erase the gnawing and perennial questions of suffering and death from man’s his consciousness; that they are there forever haunting and gnawing the soul of her faithful. The Season of Lent is meant to lead us to Christ. For only He has effectively grappled with the stark realities of suffering and death of His existence, and effectively transformed it into a new life. Hence, He alone can truly helped man to effectively face these existential problems. Christ is the center of the Church, and central to Him is the Paschal Mystery, his willing acceptance of his suffering, death, and thereby transforming it with the Resurrection. As He Himself declared: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains but a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest” (Jn 12:24).
When in the Mass we sing full-throated the phrase “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again”, or, in a drawl of one whose mind is not entirely there we tag along with the congregation mumbling it, we are actually proclaiming the very core of our Christian faith. It is called the Paschal mystery of Christ’s cross and Resurrection, the center of the Good News that the Church proclaims to the whole world. All the religious activities, the penances, prayers and works of love and compassion, the liturgical celebrations and private devotions that lead to discipline and self-mastery, connected with the Season of Lent are all about Christ and His Passover. For it is only through our identification with Christ crucified can we participate in the redemption as planned by God.
To avail of this life that Jesus merited for us we have to be incorporated to Him, undertake the Paschal journey with Him, suffer with Him, die with Him, and be transformed into His likeness, the pleasing Son of the Father. How are we to be incorporated to Christ? The story of Nicodemus could give us a glimpse of the way we will be incorporated to the life of Christ. He was a knowledgeable man, a man who knew about God and His commandments. But with the spiritual stuff that he had in his brain, he was nagged by some questions that eventually brought him to Jesus. Before he even could state his question, our Lord told him: “Unless a man is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” When Nicodemus intervened with this remark: “How can a grown man be born? Can he go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied: “I tell you most solemnly, unless a man is born through water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God; what is born of the flesh is flesh; what is born of the Spirit is spirit” (cf. Jn 3:1-6).
The Sacrament of Baptism is the means whereby sinful man is incorporated into the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. From the day of our baptism, we share Christ’s death and Resurrection and start the wonderful journey of His disciples. Along this line Benedict XVI in his 2011 Lenten message said: “Hence, Baptism is not a rite from the past, but the encounter with Christ, which informs the entire existence of the baptized, imparting divine life and calling for sincere conversion; initiated and supported by Grace, it permits the baptized to reach the adult stature of Christ.
The Season of Lent, then, is our journey towards the center of our faith: an encounter with Christ in his suffering, death, and Resurrection. It is for us a revisit to our original vocation to be holy in Christ. As St. Paul succinctly put it: “You have been buried with him, when you were baptized; and by baptism, too you have been raised up with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead” (Col 2: 12).


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