The Lenten season for the year 2022 commences today. Christians in Nigeria, this Wednesday, join the rest of the world to mark the beginning of the 40-day period of fasting. The season which is characterized by fasting, prayers, abstinence and almsgiving, begins with the Ash Wednesday, when ash is applied on the foreheads of faithful.
The ash on the forehead is a mark of humility and repentance and a necessary reminder of the fact that humans are mere mortals who were formed from dust and whose final abode remains the same dust.
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In observing the six-week period, Christians are enjoined to ensure that everything they do is in total submission to the will of God and to be devoid of hypocrisy, falsehood and eschew crimes of all sorts. They are also charged to be careful of pleasing fellow humans through outwards actions, rather than focusing on doing the will of God genuinely.
In his message to the faithful to herald the season, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, said “Lent helps us to pause and examine our lives as Christians. It is this examination that helps to give meaning and purpose to our lives as a whole. This period is an opportunity to stand before the mirror to look back at our lives as we relate to God, our neighbours and community. We ask ourselves questions such as: How have we used the gifts that God has given us to better our lives and that of our families, neighbours or communities? Has laziness, greed, selfishness often stood in the way of our doing good? We should pause to see the areas of our lives that need improvement.”
He maintained that Lent must not be viewed as simply a season or a period on the calendar, but a time to become better human beings “in the image and likeness of God”.
To emphasise the bishop’s message is the reading taken from the book of Prophet Joel, which said, “even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and tear your hearts not your garment”.
We felicitate with all Christians in the country for witnessing another Lenten season, especially when viewed against all the challenges of the past year and we pray that Almighty God gives them the strength to go through the season seamlessly. Nigeria, today, is heavily polarized. At this time, we call on Christian clerics to preach unity while imploring the faithful to live peacefully with their neighbours and people of other faiths. We have seen instances where some Christians break their fast with people of other faiths during this period. We encourage more people to do that as such will foster unity.
Clerics must also use this opportunity to preach against crimes, especially insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and the new trend of ritual killings for money among the youth, so that there could be a cleansing of the society.
One of the tenets of Lent is prayers. This period, therefore, provides the Christians an opportunity to fervently pray to God to intervene in the torrents of problems in the country; be it insurgency, banditry and even economy-related issues and for God to give the nation’s leaders the wisdom to lead the country aright. Already, the drums of politics are beating in preparation for the next general elections. The time to commence prayers for good leaders to emerge is now. We urge the faithful to be steadfast in prayers to that effect so that Nigeria can be rid of all its problems. Among us are many people who have been displaced due to crises of insurgency and banditry. There are also persons who have no means of supporting themselves due to the poor state of the economy. Good thing, Lent calls for almsgiving. We call on people to, more than ever, be their brother’s keeper by assisting them. Well-to-do persons among the faithful should support these persons as much as they can so that they can also have a sense of belonging. Sadly, in Nigeria, citizens have managed to separate religion from the way they go about their day-to-day activities. This is the time for a re-evaluation of that thinking. This is the time to return to God in truth in such a way that there is a general improvement in individual attitude which will indeed translate into a better society for everyone. May the Almighty God give the Christians the strength to go through this period and bless them with the rewards that come with the season.