The Liturgical Cycle is designed to help us on our faith journey. Faith is a gift from God, a theological virtue, to help us ascend in our relationship with God. Our personal goal during this Year of Faith should be a more intimate relationship with God. Lent is one of the seasons within the liturgical cycle that is specially designed to help us to focus on our relationship with God.
In the Early Church, the period of Lent prepared the new believers for Baptism – entry into the Church. It also allowed those who had fallen away to return to Christ. To help both groups of people, the entire Church fasted and prayed, they did penance and special studies that allowed them to deep their life in Christ.
Have we, today lost the real meaning of Lent and fallen into complacency? We need to heed the teachings of the Church, especially the observance of the seasons set aside for spiritual nourishment. Most of us may attend retreats, pray a little more and fast. This is very good. We are also encouraged by spiritual directors to examine our life in context and make changes. We may need to develop a committed prayer life, or give more of our time to the service of the community and family, shed some baggage, forgive others we have held resentment against for years, study scripture, etc. Whatever it is, we need to make a commitment to it.
Conviction, confidence and commitment
Dr Marcellino D’Ambrosio speaks of faith as more than just belief, he speaks of faith as having three components: conviction, confidence and commitment. Many of us believe in God, but we have not ascended to confidence and commitment. To make these ascents prayer is essential. Therefore faith begins with a life of prayer where we develop a relationship with God who both listens to us and speaks to us. Using scripture in prayer is also very important so that we can hear the voice of God and also that we develop a relationship with the triune God who created us in God’s image and likeness. The danger is that we can sometimes create a God in our image and likeness, calling him Jesus. Scripture will help us with truth. The word will be a light unto our path.
As catechists, we are teachers of the faith and so it is important for us to help people at every stage of their faith development. It is important for us to expose children to different forms of prayer and proper understanding of the Holy Mass and the liturgical seasons. It is important for us to walk the journey ourselves so that we can share our experience with others.
Lent is a 40-day period of prayer, fasting and alms-giving. It is important for us to understand the different concepts of fasting and abstinence. Many of us abstain from meat and eat fish instead, but fish is twice as expensive as meat. If our fasting is to entail a sacrifice of something we like and something that is pleasurable, it should lead to a saving of money so that we can give the cost of what has been sacrificed to the poor as alms. This is a dimension to fasting that benefits us as well as someone else.
Our prayer should include the Stations of the Cross, so that we can enter into the suffering of Christ and in so doing appreciate more fully what great love God showed for us in dying on a cross for us. Participating in parish/community retreats will also help us through the teachings and prayer. It will be like making a pilgrimage so that we can recognise the face of Christ in events and people we encounter.
The letters that form the word Lent when inverted reads as follows: T – Turn; N – Now; E – from Everything Evil, L – to Lord Jesus. Let us try to make this Lent a time of growth in our relationship with God. Once we dispose ourselves to God, God sends God’s Holy Spirit to work within us. We must be open to this transformation. – Bernadette Gopaul-Ramkhalawan, Archdiocesan Catechetical Office