Lent: An Opportunity to Be and With the Poor By Sem. Emmanuel G. Calumpong

lentCuaresma na naman! It’s Lent once again. Cuaresma means 40 days in the season of Lent starting Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday. While Cuaresma takes its root from the Spanish language, the term “Lent” is an old English word meaning “springtime.”

That is why in Europe, the 40-day Lenten season is more appreciated as springtime because usually, beginning on Ash Wednesday, almost all trees appear dead. And as Holy Week nears, the twigs start to show signs of life again.

Some trees have branches with little buds of young green leaves. Others appear yellow, others all white and some others pink. These are not leaves, they are blossoms. It’s a wonderful sight, especially when the sun shines on them. It’s springtime!

Lent is all about fresh starts. It is an invitation to a journey to new beginnings with the Lord. It is the assurance and hope for a new life. This is what we go through during these 40 days of Lent.

The Lenten Season is a pilgrimage of faith into our interior life, where we meet the Lord and open our hearts to His transforming love. Having been made aware of the universal affliction of sin in the preceding weeks, in Lent we are given the practical asceticism of prayer, fasting and almsgiving; and the grace to deal with the terrible hold sin has on our flesh.

When we give alms in love, we strip ourselves of our selfish attachment to physical possessions. In this way we open our hearts to receive the gifts of the Spirit. By the fasting of our senses, we empty ourselves more completely, leaving us with a sense of privation, a sort of death to the flesh, which allows us to be lifted up by the Spirit to God. When we open our hearts in prayer, the word of God cuts through them as a two-edged sword, separating our flesh and spirit. The Holy Spirit shows us how we are following, or not following, the will of the Lord in our lives. He gives us the strength to make the necessary changes in our lives.

However, I believe that one of the challenges during the Lenten Season is how to make it real to people who seem to be experiencing “lent” throughout their lives. Those who are in the peripheries, the unloved, the marginalized, the destitute, the victims of the different injustice of society. In other words, the poor.

For it seems to be impossible for them to give alms since they are the ones to whom alms are given to. To fast since they don’t even have something to fast from. Or to pray since they are the ones who need more of prayers because of the many injustices, sufferings and hardships they experience.

The challenge therefore is how to be one with them in their own pilgrimage of faith. To guide them and to share with them the transforming love of the Lord. To let them know that in their suffering they can always find consolation and strength in the Lord who also suffers with them. That if they are discouraged or desperate, betrayed or confused, or feeling hopeless, as if there were reaching a dead-end in their life, they can always find recourse in the Lord. He will help them persevere till they find new beginnings. That whatever the situation they are in, they should not give up and lose hope.

The Lord Himself had gone through the worst of all sufferings and death, but He rose to new life.  He wants to assure us by His Resurrection that we too will rise even in the worst of all situations. We, too, have the seeds of the Resurrection within us. That’s for sure! It’s as sure as the coming out of new leaves and blossoms in springtime.

 

 

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