By Fr. Roy Cimagala
WE are once again in the season of Lent. It’s a period of preparation for the greatest event in the history of mankind—the passion, death and resurrection of Christ—which we will celebrate within the Holy Week, from the evening of Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday.
It’s a period meant to purify ourselves, with the aim of strengthening us spiritually and morally, and with the view of making ourselves more and more identified with Christ, who is the very pattern of our life, “the way, the truth and the life” for us.
We cannot deny that we need some purification because in spite of our best efforts, we cannot help but get dirtied somehow with the many and multiplying things we have to handle in the world today.
There are many new things coming up, and our curiosity gets aroused. We also know that our learning process to grapple with these new developments will always involve some falls, some mistakes which can either be small or big.
We need to pause and reflect on the significance of this period because with all the activities, concerns, not to mention the challenges and trials of our life, we tend to take Lent for granted and content ourselves with going through the motions of some sacrifices just to get by.
Lent is actually a very happy occasion, because in spite of the fasting and abstinence asked of us on certain days and the prodding to be generous with all kinds of self-denial and works of mercy, we are slowly being molded into another Christ, our sole Redeemer, with whom we also have to redeem ourselves.
Let’s remember that each of us is expected to be a co-redeemer with Christ. No matter how much Christ wants to save us, even to the extent of offering his life on the cross, if we do not correspond to his redeeming will and ways, we will not be saved.
St. Augustine once said: “God made us without us, but he cannot save us without us.” We have to understand that Lent is a very good occasion to go through another conversion, another renewal, another reaffirmation of our commitment to follow Christ faithfully, so that our redemption becomes a joint effort between Christ and us as it ought to be.
We should then realize that all those fasting and abstinence, those acts of self-denial and works of mercy, should leave us with a growing sensation that we are becoming more and more like Christ,, thinking, choosing, doing things like him and with him.
Otherwise, all these acts would lose their purpose. They would just become mechanical, soulless acts, a routine just to pass the time. We have to make sure that with God’s grace that would always require of us humility and simplicity and all the virtues, we get the sensation that we are another Christ.
And we should not be afraid to be so. We should disabuse ourselves from the fear that by aiming to be another Christ, we would become proud and vain, feeling superior over others, and falling into a psychological disorder called messianic complex.
Obviously, all these can happen if we are not careful. But if we make the effort to correspond to God’s grace always, then we can be and we can do what Christ was and did. He was humble and simple, merciful and compassionate. He lived the true spirit of poverty.
He also said that his food was to do the will of his Father, that he came not to condemn but to save the world. These would also be the mind that we would have if we grow to become another Christ.
Like Christ, we would not to be afraid to suffer. We would be willing to bear the burden of the others. As commanded by Christ and lived by him, we would know how to love everyone, including those who consider themselves as our enemies.
We have to see to it that these traits and qualities of Christ are slowly taking root in our lives. We should feel the need to pray, like what Christ did also, even waking up early before sunrise to go a certain place to pray. We should be able to have intimate conversations with our Father God.
Like Christ, we should do our work well to such an extent that we can gain that reputation that Christ himself had: “bene omnia fecit,” he did all things well.
We have to understand Lent as a period of sculpting the image of the living Christ in us.