Lent, the beginning of a new commitment to serve our neighbor
Once again we are in the season of Lent. Many of us remember Lent as a time for fasting, abstinence, way of the cross, almsgiving and penance. Many too consider the Lenten campaign as a means of raising funds for the poor. We become very generous during this season and donate graciously towards this fund. These may nevertheless be some of the ways of observing Lent but there is much more to Lent than just donating generously for the poor and denying ourselves of some pleasures in life.
Goodness, sacrifice and charity should not be just confined to Lent but rather Lent should be the beginning of a new commitment on our part to share what we have with fellow men. It need not be money or wealth but our time, energy, talents, skills and above all our love with those we come into contact daily especially the poor.
Who are the poor? Traditionally the poor refers to those financially deprived without food, clothing and shelter but in our country although there are still such hard core poor in our midst who need such aid but more often we encounter other forms of “poverty” particularly in urban areas.
To certain extent everyone around us is “poor” in some way or other as the majority are silently suffering from some form of ailment either physical,social or mental; serious illness,loneliness,loss of loved ones, financial problems, failures in career, failures in love,persecution,denial of basic rights and freedom, and the list is in fact endless.
All it takes for us is to open our eyes and ears to realize that almost all around us are “poor” in some way.They all need our hands of friendship that could help to alleviate their suffering to some extent. We may not be in a position to totally eradicate their “poverty”, only God can do that, but I am sure we can do the little within our means to reduce their pain and agony.
This Lent let us recall the words of Jesus “I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mathew 25:40). It should be a reminder to us that Jesus dwells in those around us, especially the needy, downtrodden and the despised. We will only be cheating ourselves if we say we love Jesus while refusing to lend a hand to those around us.
We can sacrifice some precious possessions of ours - our time, energy and wealth for the betterment of fellow mankind. At the same we can give up something which we all possess in abundance - pride, selfishness, ego, anger and greed which impede our endeavors to serve others.
As we set foot into this season of Lent let us reflect on our own lives as Christians. Do we see Jesus in the people whom we meet daily – our spouse, our children, our parents, our boss and fellow colleagues in the office, the migrant workers,the poor and hungry, the sick and the dying, the handicapped, the sinner, the orphans, our priests and clergy and even our enemies?
Are we willing to forgive and offer our hand of friendship to our enemies and those who sin against us? Are we sensitive to the needs of others around us, or do we close our eyes and ears to their cries of plea? Are we willing to go down to the level of the poor and downtrodden to empathize with their misfortunes? Do we have the patience to listen to those in distress? Are we willing and brave enough to speak out against injustice wherever it occurs?
The real meaning of Lent is sacrifice, not for our well-being but that of others. Fasting, abstinence and prayer are just a means to achieve that goal not the goals themselves. We are asked to become holy but our holiness in God, like Mother Teresa, must benefit others more than ourselves.
Let make this season of Lent the beginning of being more aware of the needs of those around us, especially those who are suffering in loneliness. Let’s lend a hand to someone who is lonely and at the brink of death. Let’s start with those lonely in our own families especially our elderly parents. Let’s be generous and gracious not just with our money but also with our precious time that money cannot buy.
We may be having a tough time ourselves coping with all the stresses in life to make ends meet. We may have terrible problems of our own to handle, with our spouse, our children, our work, our financial difficulties, and our illness and so on, but amidst all these we must find some time for those who are gripped with the fear of loneliness, those in the twilight of their lives.
We can be assured that if we can do that to one of these least brothers of His, we will be doing it to Him.