Lenten Observance: A Call for Change

Every time the season of lent approaches, there is a nostalgic feeling that hovers our mind; a feeling of remorse and repentance. This nostalgic feeling helps us to enter into this season with a mindset that would help us to live this season fruitfully. What we have read from the Sacred Scriptures, what we have heard from our spiritual fathers and what we have been practicing all these years of our life create this nostalgia in our minds. Directly or indirectly this feeling helps us to go through the season with lot of reverence and piety. It is this feeling that propels us to change our lives, for, lent without change is meaningless.

Lent is that season during the liturgical year which calls the faithful to make a change in his or her life, while reflecting upon the salvific passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Lent completed without a change is equal to having not gone through that season. It is not simply a call for changing our life but rather demands a change from us. The passion, death and resurrection of Jesus became salvific because it was able to change the fallen status of mankind into a saved state of life. Every act of this season is directed towards this change, be it the liturgy of everyday of this season, be it the spiritual exercises of this season or any devotional observances of it, they all propose a change to us.

A Call to Change Our Understanding

The season of lent offers us a chance to change our understanding. Our understanding regarding various aspects of life can be wrong. We form our understanding from various perspectives that we have in our lives. They can be sometimes false or vicious. Change of understanding is important because it is this understanding that leads us to form attitudes in us and those attitudes lead us to form ways of life. The Lord died for the salvation of the mankind; this could be the simplest of all understandings regarding the Pascal mystery of Jesus. A reflective reading of this same statement would open our eyes to understand the depth of those words; what they contain and what they proclaim.

It is the Lord who died for the mankind; the creator himself died for the salvation of the creatures. This is nothing but a great mystery; God the creator becomes ransom for the recovery of his creatures. How does he become the ransom? He does so by the painful death he achieved on the wooden cross on Calvary. God who created the entire universe out of nothing gives up his life to retrieve the lost human beings. It was not a simple act of mercy or an act of generosity that He suffered and died but a holy and salvific act; an act that gave life to millions of people. This holy death was for the entire human race.

The beauty of the death of Jesus on the cross is that it brought about the salvation of the whole human race; irrespective of cast, creed, colour and nationality. That simple statement, the Lord died for the salvation of the mankind, has such a depth that one would never end his/her quest in understanding the meaning of it. The passion, death and resurrection of Jesus has so much to offer us and the season of lent is the best time to change our wrong understandings regarding the passion and death of Jesus; understanding regarding the Lord himself.

A Call to Change Our Attitudes

Our understanding, whether they are right or wrong, form our attitudes. These attitudes guide and propel our behaviors. Lent calls us to change these attitudes by right understanding of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. The Lord died for the sins of mankind; so what for me? This attitude is not only casual but also dangerous. It is casual because we think that we are not part of that mankind. We are on our own. This attitude comes up from an egoistic feeling. The false identity my money and my positions has created around me cause to form this attitude. This attitude alone is enough to lead us to doom. It is also dangerous because we would not be ready to reconcile with our sins on the one side and would dive deep into the bottom of sinfulness on the other side. The feeling of pride that resulted from ego is one that brings a momentary pleasure that no one would ever want to be rid of. It is a fact that the Lord died for our sins; for my sins and for your sins. To put it bluntly, the Lord dies for me and for you today, at this moment, when I sin. This understanding would be more than enough to change my attitude. If I don’t change them in this season of lent, when will I?

A Call to Change Our Ways

Finally, all that matters in our lives is the way we live our lives. Our understanding and attitude are all internal factors while it is our ways that give us an identity in the society. Our ways tell the world, what we believe, what we understand and what our attitude towards life is. If our ways are good then they tell the world that we have a right understanding of life. The season of lent calls us to mend our ways. The Lord suffered for us; he died for us. It is for us now to suffer for the human race and to die for its sins. It was the Lord then and it is me and you today! No cross, no crown. No suffering no salvation. If we do not feel the need to suffer and die for the world and its sins, we are in the ditch of sin. When we wish to suffer for others, die for them, we are ready to mend our ways. Suffering and death demand from us a new way of life. The Son of God became the son of man to actualize the salvation. Slaves of sin need to come out and become sons and daughters of God in order to suffer and die for others.

In the season of lent, the Lord who suffered and died for the mankind becomes tangibly present to the faithful as they go through vigorous spiritual exercises with the intention to be a part of the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord. The meditation on the way of the cross, the daily attendance in the Holy Eucharist and some penitential activities bring alive the passion of the Lord into the minds of the people. They in other words are means to come to reconcile with the Lord, with each other and then with oneself. The gist of the forty long days of fasting and abstinence is nothing but the reconciliation of mankind. The Almighty desired and longed for this reconciliation that he sent his only Son to suffer and to die to actualize it. The desire and the longing of God is actualized when I observe this season of penance and prayer as a means to get back to the Lord and get across to my brothers and sisters. Let this season of lent be one that brings us closer to our brothers and sisters and through them to the Lord, the one who suffered for us, the one who died for us, the one who rose for us!

Fr Rajesh Puthusserry