During this week we celebrate our fantastic festival of Carnival, which showcases a variety of talents and the ‘creative juices’ of our people. It is a wonderful time for us to focus on our Synod Priority for 2014, Regenerating Moral and Spiritual Values, since moral and spiritual values are usually taxed at this time.
The reason we need to regenerate is because we have reached a point where our society has lost a sense of Christian morality or the Christian way of living. We usually pray for people to make wise moral choices and that good sense will prevail as people take part in the events of Carnival. We need to also provide some practical guidelines on how people can easily get started on this journey of regenerating. This week we also begin our Lenten observances on Ash Wednesday, which incidentally comes after Carnival Tuesday in Trinidad and Tobago.
Lent is a time that is set aside for us to reflect on our lives and to work on areas that need attention. We do this through prayer, repentance, abstinence, fasting and almsgiving. It would be a good idea for us all to use Lent 2014 to regenerate our moral and spiritual values. So what do we mean when we speak about moral and spiritual values?
St Augustine says: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.” Our hearts are restless, searching for happiness, but happiness is found in living God’s way. Ronald Rolheiser, a priest and spiritual writer, in his book The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality, claims that spirituality is how we live out that restlessness, or longing, in our actions. It is what we do with our desires. Spirituality, then, is how we live out our longing to be happy and therefore we must regenerate our spirituality in such a way to find rest and happiness in God. Our spiritual values will determine what moral values we hold. As Christians, our spiritual values direct our hearts to our Lord Jesus and thus our morals are based on the teachings of Christ Himself and God’s word to His people even before Christ.
Michael Pennock, in his book This is our Faith, speaks of Christian morality as “responsibility in love”, meaning it is about freely accepting God’s love and freely loving God and living according to His way. God will never take away the gift of free will from us. Christian morality speaks to us about a way of life that is God-centred and not self-centred.
The following five keys may unlock doors to the knowledge, understanding and wisdom needed to live good moral and spiritual lives in relation to Jesus Christ and not in relation to the world standards or our own standards. It is important to note that everyone has some form of spirituality, by virtue of the fact that everyone has desires and has made choices about how to live out their desires. As Christians we desire a spirituality that directs us to God and helps build God’s Kingdom and promote His reign here on earth.
Start the day with Prayer
Prayer consistently renews our lives because it puts us in union with our divine Creator, Redeemer and life-giver. It is a good practice to become aware of God’s presence as we awake in the morning. We should breathe in the life of God as we take our first breath of morning air, hear His voice in the first sounds of the morning and let these bring us to a mood of praise to God for what He is – the mighty, all wonderful creator God. We should then offer our day and all its events to Him so that whatever the day brings we have His strength, His help and His guidance to face it. This may initially last just a few minutes until we build up to longer periods. This may not be the time we have chosen for intense prayer but this time should be sacred because it molds our being to be God-conscious people throughout the day. The first thought of the day usually remains with us throughout the day. This is the beginning of an encounter with God. Whoever encounters God is never left the same.
Read Scripture daily
It is important that we feed our souls through Scripture and spiritual readings. Our minds will be renewed by the knowledge found in the scriptures. If we make scripture a daily part of our life and reflect on it during the day, it will become a part of who we are. We will eventually find our own life story in it. It also helps form our conscience, that little voice that nags at us when we do something wrong or contrary to our conscience. It is important that a well-formed conscience is developed from an early age. The conscience that is rooted in God will act as a red flag when behaviours are not directed to a Christ-like way of life. The word of God is spirit and it is life, it is light unto our paths. We will begin to find a pathway that leads to a life of happiness with God. Our choices and behaviours will all be in relation to Jesus and His teachings. This key unlocks the voice of wisdom, understanding and knowledge.