By Fr Jim Nolan
We are in the season of Lent, a time for all Christians to drain the swamp, to shake off that which hinders our relationship with the cross, the recurring temptation for all of us is not to align ourselves with the cross.
Jesus said to Peter “Pray not to be put to the test” (Mk 14:38). Reverence for the Ten Commandments was the mark of the Jewish people. God promises Abraham a land, descendants and blessing, an inheritance; the stone tablets were placed in the Ark containing these laws and commandments; the Ten Commandments are to be carried by the Christian in our hearts and in the way we live and love.
The three elements attached to the season of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Fasting, we are told, is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting, so we are all in for a treat at the end of our journey. Sacrifice brings an indulgence in the Lord. Fasting in our world today seems to be counter-cultural to the Gospel message, believing instead that every desire should be satisfied.
“Fasting is better than prayer, while charitable giving is better than both” (2nd Clement 16:4, Coptic Orthodox Church). We the living inhabitants of this world are a living piece of each other passing the time, welding the memories of days gone by to the gate that embraces the bright heights of divine encounter. Lent helps us to confront suffering like Jesus and to enter the suffering of others.
After Calvary comes Easter which is a triumphant platform for true spiritual wisdom and growth where the wear of time is mended. “Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness. Come into His presence with singing, know that the Lord is God” (Ps 100).
As we travel further into this new year of 2021 our faith practice has been disfigured by the stops and starts of Covid 19 restrictions. A huge effort has been made to accommodate our church going and non-going members during these parched days, an empty feeling can consume us, we have many hungers within, a hunger for Christian and family intimacy and therefore something to fill the void is sought, we need restoration, we need lifting up.
Come to the water all you who are thirsty, our faith practice nourishes the void and satisfies all of our hungers. Extraordinary defines what goes beyond the norm when it comes to our faith and I guess that is the challenge before us during Lent as we set our eyes on the road before us and in the long term too.
As the sun sets on the darkest of years, a resilient faith-filled community must rise to the challenge and with God’s grace, we will.