Blog & Pastor Letters

The Substance of the Lenten Season

03-01-2020Weekly ReflectionRev. Victor C. Yakubu

One of the inspirational quotes I love from Pope Francis is about confession. He said, "The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord's mercy motivates us to do better." I find this quote inspirational because the season of Lent is not a period of torture or humiliation but that of reflection about God's Mercy. The "Day of Ashes" Ash Wednesday is also known, reminds us of our nothingness before God who is the creator of the world and ruler of all.

The story of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis chapters 2 and 3 illustrates the gross disobedience of our first parents. God clearly instructs them not to eat of the forbidden tree, but Adam and Eve defied God and disrespected his commands and ate of it. Their action became a negation of God's desire for them to live solely under his rule. Their action introduces the concept of sin in the world. Since Adam and Eve chose to follow their will, they knew instantly that they were "naked" a symbolism for loss of innocence, self-worth, and a self-realization of unworthiness.

Does this ring a bell in your mind? Indeed, men and women choose to follow the inklings of their hearts and in the process disobey the commands of the Lord. However, we must emphasize that it is the prerogative of every man and woman to choose the kind of life they desire for themselves if they know the consequences. Freedom is what God gave to us without contemplating reclamation from us. And since we are independent when we choose, then, we ought to bear the consequences of any choice no matter how positive or how negative. Some people always blame the devil for their wrong choices and never own up to their wrong. That action is the seed of Adam and Eve at work in them.

The Lenten season should assist our personal reflection about our everyday choices that negate God's commandments. Remember, Jesus himself battled the devil for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness. He was tempted by the devil to disobey God. Jesus refused to be misled by the devil or to take the deals offered to him for personal comfort or fame.

Matthew 4: 1-11 gives us a narration of this encounter between Jesus and the devil in which both clearly defined their positions by their words and body language.

Therefore, it is right to interpret the words of Pope Francis about the confessional as they relate to our Lenten Journey. The confessional is not a torture chamber to force a confession of sinful acts out of the penitent like it is done in dictatorial regimes. Far from it! The confessional is the place of mercy that freely welcomes the sinner who made wrongful choices due to selfishness, pride, jealousy, malice, or greed. The difference between the devil and us is that we accept our weaknesses before God because nothing is hidden to him. The devil does not confess freely. He loves to hide his offenses. We become "naked" before the Holy One and it is him who can clothe us with his merciful love and restore our brokenness at this Lenten season.

The message for the Christian for this Lenten season is drawn from the words of St. Paul to the Romans 5: 12-19, "For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal." When God acquits you of your transgressions, nobody else can convict you. The power to free you comes from God, but the choice to return to God is within your grasp. It is therefore necessary that throughout this season of Lent that you reconsider listening to the voice of God that calls you to avoid occasions of sin. Adam and Eve refused to listen to God and were expelled from the Garden of Eden. When you refuse to listen to God, do you know what will happen to you on Judgment Day? To avoid a catastrophic encounter on that day, begin to confess your guilt now and be free. Engage in corporal works of mercy to let others know how God has blessed you in your personal life. A Christian is not a saint until he acknowledges that it is only God who can forgive sins and restore him back to his loving heart. If you feel forgiven, then forgive others at this season of Lent. That is the gist of Lent. Keep praying!