God has given us the grace to witness another Lenten Season: a time of Prayer, Abstinence and Almsgiving. Lent is a period God brought out for us in a year to have renewal and be new again.
2019 LENTEN MESSAGE
2019 Lenten Message of His Grace, Most Rev. Valerian M. Okeke
We have entered the season of Lent. Lent is a period God brought out for us in a year to have renewal and be new again. By the virtue of our Baptism, God renews us, and we become His Children in a special way, and no more ordinary people. We are no more with the Original Sin, but Children of God, adopted sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, destined for eternal glory.
Each year, God brings again what will cleanse us of our sins and we become new again like His children and enters into new life. So, the Church brought out for us, 40 days, in which after our prayer, abstinence and charity, we become prepared for the renewal of our baptismal vows and obtain cleansing and blessing of entering into new life in Christ for the Easter celebration which is the feast of our salvation by Christ. We renew our baptismal vows after the Lenten period.
Lent begins today, every Ash Wednesday, and stops in the Morning of Holy Thursday and we enter the Triduum, in praying and entering the spirit of Easter celebration. As we conclude the Lenten Period, we enter the Passion Week, so that if there is anyone who is still left out in the spirit of the Lenten Period and has not been following and asleep, may wake up and follow.
In this season of Lent, what does God want of us, what does the Church expect of us? Prayer, Abstinence and Charity.
There is nobody that does not pray. But there is a difference. You have to be conscious of the fact that you want to pray and have some intentions you are praying for. The reason why the Church made it 40 days is because in the bible, the feast of 40, or 40 years, or 40 days, or 40 in number is the symbol of completeness, to show that a thing is complete, if there is any other thing added to it, it becomes an addition. So, 40 days in the bible stands for completeness. The Church now asks us to say this prayer for 40 days, do this fasting for 40 days and almsgiving for 40 days, to prepare for the renewal of God in your life, through the renewal of our Baptismal vow, that His grace may be complete in your life.
As we pray for these 40 days, do not pray only for yourself. In our reflection on “The Splendor of Prayer”, one of my Pastoral Letters, we reminded ourselves that prayer is more effective when you pray for another person. You ought to pray for yourself, but do not forget to pray for other people. If you are praying only for yourself, then your prayer is lacking. If you look into the lives of the Prophets, the Apostles, hardly would you read where they prayed for themselves. It does not mean they were not praying for themselves, but their praying for others was a priority. Therefore this period, bring out some things and some people you will pray for. Pray for Anambra State, pray for Nigeria, pray for your family.
Also, another important thing to note is that Prayer goes with forgiveness. As you pray for yourself, remember that there is “Our Father”, the Lord’s Prayer, is involved: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. As you pray God to give you, try to be giving also to another person, for your prayer to be effective. That person that annoyed you, that stabbed you in the heart, that you said you would never forgive, that when you reach heaven, that God would judge both of you. Decide and forgive that person. If you reach heaven, and the person has not forgiven you, let God be judging the person alone, for you have passed by forgiving the person. Prayer goes with forgiveness!
Fasting from morning till night, dry fasting, is good but take it easy because sickness abounds in our time now. The most important thing is that you do not over-feed yourself, just eat a little and stop, that though you are still hungry, sickness will not affect you. However, the most important fasting is that you are doing fasting from sin. If you are fasting, doing dry fasting, and there is no one praying like you, and you continue in your sins, in your iniquities, that your fasting is not effective. The best fasting is fasting from sin!
The Gospel of today, Matt. 6:1-6.16-18 explained it very well. As you do charity, do not let the whole world knows that you are doing charity. Almsgiving goes with humility.
As we do all these things and be asking God for our own needs, bring out also one intention that is bothering you, that you will be praying with. As you say this prayer for 40 days and do the corresponding works attached to the prayer, God will look into your intention, because there is nothing impossible for God to do.
In this Lenten Season, pray also for your loved ones, your children, your siblings, your parents, your friends, and those who wishes you well. This is the time of Grace, the time of God’s grace for us, but it is also the time God uses us in showing other people His Grace. Do not allow this Grace of God to pass you. Try to pray for someone, try to have a prayer intention. If there is something you are doing that is not good or that is sinful, pray for God’s grace to stop it.
May God make this Lenten Period benefit us and be for our own betterment, both body and soul, through Christ our Lord.
Given in Onitsha, at the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, on the 6th day of March 2019.