Lenten Penance and the Synod Journey

By Emelda Siama John

Lent is the 40-days and 40-days period within the church calendar (beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday) that focuses on the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus and culminates in the joy and celebration of His resurrection. A concise and wonderfully articulated description of Lent comes from Living Through Dying.

The parish priest of Holy Rosary Parish, Emmanuel Omollo, said that, Lent is a season of preparation and repentance during which we anticipate the death (Good Friday) and resurrection (Easter Sunday) of Jesus. It is this very preparation and repentance—aimed at grasping the intense significance of the crucifixion—that give us a deep and powerful longing for the resurrection, the joy of Easter.

“The church collect money during lent, so that the church can care for the poor people, orphans, widows, prisoners, and sick people, the church is advising us not to behave like pagan, it is about inner change and its a moment of renewing of our faith with Jesus and coming to the new life, through prayers, fasting and forgiveness,” Fr. Omollo said.  

Pope said, Lenten penance is a commitment, sustained by grace, to overcoming our lack of faith and our resistance to following Jesus on the way of the cross. This is precisely what Peter and the other disciples needed to do. To deepen our knowledge of the Master, to fully understand and embrace the mystery of his salvation, accomplished in total self-giving inspired by love, they must allow themselves to be taken aside by him and to detach themselves from mediocrity and vanity.

“We need to set out on the journey, an uphill path that, like a mountain trek, requires effort, sacrifice and concentration. These requisites are also important for the Synod journey to which, as a Church, we are committed to making. We can benefit greatly from reflecting on the relationship between Lenten penance and the Synod experience,”

Pope Francis said that, the Lenten journey of penance and the journey of the Synod alike have as their goal a transfiguration, both personal and ecclesial, a transformation that, in both cases, has its model in the Transfiguration of Jesus and is achieved by the grace of his paschal mystery. So that this transfiguration may become a reality in us this year, I would like to propose two “paths” to follow in order to ascend the mountain together with Jesus and, with him, to attain the goal.

The first path has to do with the command that God the Father addresses to the disciples on Mount Tabor as they contemplate Jesus transfigured. The voice from the cloud says: “Listen to him” (Mt 17:5). The first proposal, then, is very clear: we need to listen to Jesus.

“Lent is a time of grace to the extent that we listen to him as he speaks to us. And how does he speak to us?  First, in the word of God, which the Church offers us in the liturgy, May that word not fall on deaf ears; if we cannot always attend Mass, let us study its daily biblical readings, even with the help of the internet,” he said

“in addition to the Scriptures, the Lord speaks to us through our brothers and sisters, especially in the faces and the stories of those who are in need. Let me say something else, which is quite important for the Synod process: listening to Christ often takes place in listening to our brothers and sisters in the Church. Such mutual listening in some phases is the primary goal, but it remains always indispensable in the method and style of a Council Church. On hearing the Father’s voice, the disciples “fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid.’ And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone” (Mt 17:6-8),” he cited.

He said that, in the second proposal for this Lent: do not take refuge in a religiosity made up of extraordinary events and dramatic experiences, out of fear of facing reality and its daily struggles, its hardships and contradictions.

He further noted that, the light that Jesus shows the disciples is an anticipation of Easter glory, and that must be the goal of our own journey, as we follow “him alone”.  Lent leads to Easter: the “retreat” is not an end in itself, but a means of preparing us to experience the Lord’s passion and cross with faith, hope and love, and thus to arrive at the resurrection.

He also said, on the Synod journey, when God gives us the grace of certain powerful experiences of communion, we should not imagine that we have arrived – for there too, the Lord repeats to us: “Rise, and do not be afraid”. Let us go down, then, to the plain, and may the grace we have experienced strengthen us to be “artisans of synodality” in the ordinary life of our communities.

“Dear brothers and sisters, may the Holy Spirit inspire and sustain us this Lent in our ascent with Jesus, so that we may experience his divine splendor and thus, confirmed in faith, persevere in our journey together with him, glory of his people and light of the nations,” pope added.

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