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Today, Christians in Nigeria will join their counterparts across the world to commence the 2024 Lenten season. The 40-day spiritual exercise begins with the Ash…

Today, Christians in Nigeria will join their counterparts across the world to commence the 2024 Lenten season. The 40-day spiritual exercise begins with the Ash Wednesday Mass. The foreheads of the faithful will be marked with ashes as a sign of humility and reminder of the mortality of the human race. It is a call to repentance and another reminder that man is “dust, and to dust you shall return,” as captured in Genesis Chapter 3 Verse 19. The ashes further signify the readiness of the recipient to embark on the journey of repentance.  The six-week exercise rests on four pillars: fasting, prayers, abstinence and alms giving.

To herald the Lenten season, the Parish Priest of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Maitama, Abuja, Rev Fr Moses Jimbili, last Sunday, harped on the significance of the period, saying except people truly repented of their sins, they would be embarking on a meaningless journey. He maintained that humility and true reconciliation with God should be the guiding principles. He warned the faithful against outward exhibition of piety.

Also speaking, Rev Fr Zacharia Samjumi, the Secretary- General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, harped on the need for the faithful to observe the acts required with sincerity. He said repentance must be from the heart.

He explained that, “Forgiveness and reconciliation do not just occur; certain actions must be activated. This explains why the Lenten exercises of prayer, fasting and alms giving are key. Prayer reconnects us with God. Fasting makes us discipline ourselves and allows us to understand how hunger feels. Fasting, therefore, connects us with others. That is to say, knowing how it feels to be hungry, one can sympathise with those who are hungry. This brings the third aspect of the Lenten exercise to focus. By understanding hunger, we are moved towards those who are hungry, so that by depriving ourselves of certain foods, we quantify the value of what we willingly deprive ourselves of and reach out to those who are most in need.

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“As we begin the Lenten period, we need to bear in mind that our Lenten observance is to add value to human existence, which guarantees eternal life with God. As Christians, adding value means actively responding to those in need, solving problems and answering those deeply seated questions that connect us to God and compel us to reach out to neighbours. As a people who claim to love God greatly, the Lenten period calls us to imitate God by promoting the good of one and all.”

We congratulate the faithful for witnessing another Lenten season. This year’s is no doubt coming at a very auspicious time; a period when many Nigerians are frustrated, and some even angry, due to the hardship being faced. This period, therefore, creates an opportunity for citizens to turn to God and pray for the leaders to make the right decisions. They should also pray for citizens to be able to surmount the challenges. It is also a time to pray for unity of the country so that as we work together we can find solutions to all our problems. 

Insecurity has continued to ravage communities and cities all around Nigeria. We urge the faithful to pray fervently for these crises to come to an end; that even the hardest criminals will seek repentance as this period demands. Among us are Nigerians who deliberately cause others pain in many forms. We urge that prayers be said that they can have a change of heart. The season is a time for alms giving, indeed all around us there are persons in need of assistance in one form or another. We urge the faithful to consider these persons and render all the help they can. And since it is a time to abstain from all that is evil, it is hoped that in adhering to this tenet, there will be genuine change within the faithful community, which will have impact on the entire society. 

We have had instances where adherents of the two major religions in Nigeria, Christianity and Islam, came together to break their fast. That tradition should continue, as apart from eating together, it helps foster unity and co-existence. They should also remember communities and countries across the world that are engaged in one form of war or another, while praying for peace in Nigeria.

The Lenten season is also a period of sacrifice. We, therefore, call on our leaders to imbibe the spirit of sacrifice so that they can always consider those who look up to them to offer guidance and true leadership.

It is hoped that this journey, which commences today, brings the desired change which is at the base of the entire exercise so that at the end the faithful will reap all the benefits that come with the season.

We pray that God grants the faithful the grace to go through this season of Lent.


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