Behold! It’s that time of the year when we look with trepidation on the present that is fast passing into the past and ponder our faults and failings in relation to our life of faith. The Christian Faith is more than just a religion – it is a way of life that both parallels and covers every facet of our existence on earth. Ours is a religion that cannot be confined to the pious practice of a few rituals in church. It is rather a religion that can be described most appropriately as a prescription for a life that challenges the believer to portray Jesus in our lives. The truth is, God can well do without any connection whatsoever with the most successful businessman on earth. But can a businessman do without a thought for the future of his soul that is purely in God’s hands?
In the 13th century, the ‘Rule’ Saint Francis d’Assisi gave his followers, including lay folk, was to live the Gospel life, using words if necessary. Nearer our time, Blessed James Alberione, the initiator of the Pauline Media apostolate, prevailed upon his sons and daughters in the Pauline Family—which included lay people—to Live and Give to the world Jesus Master, the Way, the Truth and the Life. Living and preaching the Gospel is thus tantamount to being other Christs to the world around us. And if as believers we are to live out our Baptism fruitfully, it but naturally follows that with Lent being a time of reflection, we must make due effort to change for the better on various fronts by way of duly repenting of the past and resorting to penance to set our life’s record straight. For example, Jesus repeatedly insisted that he came from the Father to do precisely the Father will and not what he himself wanted to. Yet, nowhere in the gospels do we see him allowing himself to be overshadowed by the Father, thereby demonstrating unequivocally the distinctiveness in the identity of each Person of the Holy Trinity. Lent is thus a time to consider our role in a given Small Christian Community of our respective parishes and reconsider our involvement in the various parish groups and associations.
It may be borne in mind that membership of a parish body certainly does not constitute one’s identity though of course it is an aid to living out to some extent the demands of one’s Baptism. Now, it is probably a few months since some of us have been either elected or appointed to head certain parish units or associations. Lent offers us a challenge to try and step out of the shadows of our predecessors, even if that means reviewing and overturning certain decisions taken by a former incumbent and consciously refraining from being allowed to be influenced by him or her. Lent challenges us to put the openness in our thought process to constructive use rather than to vindictive use; it offers us an opportunity to shy away from getting even with those who may have brought to our notice certain lapses or lacuna in the running of a specific body. Lent brings to the fore our sense of perception in terms of justice and propriety. Rules and regulations are meant to be observed in letter and spirit, not to mock-threaten a member. This implies that when rules and regulations are observed in the breach, it’s time to change our strategy to get others to want to actually observe set norms.
Lent is that time of the year when the words ‘sorry’ and ‘forgive’ stand out in all their hue, posing us a fresh challenge to live up to the implications of the ‘Lord’s Prayer’. It does follow of course that every adult take it upon himself or herself to be a source of reconciliation and an example of a reconciliatory attitude. Obviously, no parish organization can do full justice to its role as a facilitator towards building the parish community. As Hawk Nelson says ( sings, rather!), “Words can build you up, words can bring you down…” Willy-nilly, both words and actions have the power to build as well as break (be it a character or a relationship). Seen against this backdrop, Jesus’ words from the cross “Father forgive . . .” both frighten and challenge every believer. Saying a sincere ‘sorry’ is the first step to moving on to greener pastures of peace. Likewise, ‘I forgive’ is the first step to scaling newer heights of relationships. This would obviously apply equally to the family and to parish associations.
Unless each member of a given family seeks to demonstrate genuine sorrow and regret for past misdemeanours and unless the head of the household demonstrates and is equally generous to say ‘I forgive’, family life can be a misadventure one would only live to regret. Can it be any different concerning a parish association? Numerous are those who’ve felt openly victimized, defeating the substance of the Lord’s Prayer whose spirit has to do with justice and truth. That apart, no progress is possible in circumstances whose highlight is obviously personal animosity. What is at stake here is the outcome of involvement on the part of the members of a given group in the parish—involvement, based on or rooted in the understanding of the words sorry and forgive. If one cannot get down to seeking as well as offering forgiveness, our supposed sorrow for the sins being confessed in the Confessional can, to our detriment, only prove to be hollow. What a waste Lent would then be!
Significantly, Lent today can never prove to be a waste for want of aids and ideas to prepare consciously on a day-to-day basis for the celebration of the Easter Mysteries. The net is at an all-time high with content that uplifts the spirit. For every misuse of any means of the media there is a plethora of salubrious uses the same means are being put to, what with the Church Universal getting increasingly both media savvy and media conscious. And why not! On the one hand there are innumerable periodicals bringing the devout observer of Lent reflections in print that help lead towards our goal. On the other hand there is whatsApp which proffers valuable help at the diocesan level which even the least media savvy user would find easy to access and use! All one needs is a will towards that end!#(Published on 13th March 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 11)