Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lent, the beginning of a new commitment to love and forgiveness

A time to forgive our enemies

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 and other such funds in aid of the poor. 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.

The season of Lent starts with Ash Wednesday when we impose ashes on our foreheads to remind us of our mortal nature. Then we go through the passion of Jesus during holy Week recalling His sufferings being unjustly condemned to death on the crucifix. Very often we go through these historical events without pausing to think what it means to us today in this world dominated by greed, selfishness, hate and violence.

To us Malaysians this Lent is of special significance as it marks the first anniversary of the political tsunami that swept across our nation on March 8 last year. The unprecedented win for the opposition represented a victory of the rakyat over arrogance, power abuse, corruption and racism.

Since then there has been political turmoil because the ruling Umno-BN refuses to comply with the verdict of the people for greater democratic change. Of late it has become too aggressive in efforts to undermine the rights of fellow citizens who do not see eye to eye with them. In this political game, gaining power is all that matters whereas ethics and the rule of law become irrelevant. Their ‘ends-justifying-the-means’ style of governance is beginning to cause a lot of anxiety among all sections of the people.

The police, anti-corruption agency, judiciary and all other institutions, which are supposed to be apolitical, are being blatantly used to advance the course of the ruling party. We are denied our freedom of expression and rights for peaceful assembly. We are unfairly detained under the ISA, medical treatment denied and some are even tortured to death with little remorse from the police and top leaders. We are threatened by mob rule into submitting to unjustly implemented laws. We are even denied our right to address God in the name we want.

Christ in his time went through such injustices that were meted out on him for speaking the truth, which hurt many in positions of power and comfort. Despite all the pain and agony inflicted on him unjustly, Jesus accepted all of them willingly without anger or hate. Instead he demonstrated his extreme and unselfish love to those who hurt him by forgiving them. His civility may be seen as weakness and defeat but it was this love that allowed truth to finally prevail.

In this time of Lent when we are subjected to so much injustice, let us recall the Passion of Christ and like Jesus accept these challenges willingly without anger and hatred for those who inflict the pain and suffering on us. Let us show love and forgiveness to those who hurt us because it is this love for our enemies that will help the truth to finally prevail. It is this love for our adversaries that will bring us the ‘resurrection’ when the good finally triumphs over evil.

Dr.Chris Anthony