Lent and the importance of self-sacrifice

Gabriel Osu

Wednesday, February 14, 2018, is Ash Wednesday. The day kick-starts Lent, a forty-day period of fasting and almsgiving. Lent is a season of solemnity and sacrifice commemorating Jesus exodus into the wilderness. It is a Christian tradition that is observed in many denominations. It is the hallowed forty-day period of sacrifice leading up to Jesus’ death and Resurrection. During Lent, Catholics and some Protestants prepare for Holy Week by fasting, praying, and reconciling with the Lord. These forty days are wonderful times to rethink everything and allow ourselves to take up our crosses, as Christ once did.

During the Lenten season, we are expected to make sacrifices, as children of God and followers of Christ. The sacrifices should remind us of the one made by Jesus through which He saved us from sin and won for us salvation of our souls. The sacrifice does not have to be something extraordinary. It may mean cutting down on our excesses on a daily basis and allowing God’s grace to reign in our lives. If, for instance, you are in the habit of eating three square meals, you may need to cut it down to twice and give the third ration to someone who does not have to eat. If you are in the habit of consuming much alcohol, you may decide to cut it down drastically or just do without it during this period of lent.

We are expected to show more concern for the poor and needy this lent. The poor are those lacking in material needs. Due to circumstances beyond them, they are unable to provide adequately for their daily needs. They abound in our society. We can find them at the bus stops begging for alms, down the street and even in our neighbourhoods. Some of them are our neighbours. What are we doing to assist them?

We may recall that the early Christians were very particular about helping the poor, especially the brethren. When we read the book of Acts, we see what commitment the early Christians had for the poor in their midst. In fact, in order to remove any form of disparity, they even decided to live in a community in order to abolish the existing class system. They did things in common. Those who were poor sold their lands and properties and brought the proceeds before the Apostles. What does this show us? Through it, we are taught that we cannot truly call ourselves followers of Christ, if we fail to help those who are genuinely in need.

Apostle Paul in the book of Galatians 2: 9 and 10, enjoined us to always remember the poor in our midst. In Colossians, we see how he instigated a special collection for the poor, which were then taken to Jerusalem. What does this tell us? We should not be selfish. We should try and share our wealth with others. You can also make sacrifices this Lenten season, by giving to the poor and needy around you.

Man is made up of spirit, soul and body. Each day, we nourish our body with food, water and other nutrients. Without food and water, the body gets ill, mal-nourished and eventually dies. And because we don’t want to die, we invest so much on food and other nourishments, making sure that we remain strong and healthy. That is good. But beyond the upkeep of our mortal body, lies the need to also take care of our spirit, that part that links us to our Creator.

I believe it is divinely arranged to help bring sanity into our polity. As a solemn period of prayer, fasting and abstinence, if well observed, it is capable of attracting God’s divine favour to our land, and drive away all the forces of darkness and dis-stability. If we were faithful to the sacrifice of the period, God would drive away the stubborn hearts in us and turn it to one of love and tolerance. So, I want to call on all Christians, and indeed all Nigerians, to use this period of spiritual reflection to solicit for divine intervention for our country.

• Very Rev. Msgr. Osu, Director, Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos.

In this article:
Gabriel Osu
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