CHRISTIANS BEGIN THE SEASON OF LENT ON ASH WEDNESDAY
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
February 22nd is observed as Ash Wednesday by most Christians. It marks the beginning of the season of Lent which is the holiest period for the Christians. Spread over more than forty days (in commemoration of the rigorous fast which Jesus undertook in the desert before he began his public ministry), the season ends on Easter Sunday when Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus into Heaven.
'Ash Wednesday', derives its name from the practice of Christians having ashes imposed on their forehead or on their head as a sign of their own sinfulness and mortality. On that day, one is reminded of the need and importance of repentance for one's sins and to live a life of true and meaningful Christian discipleship.
These dimensions are meant to permeate the life of the Christian all through the season wherein sufficient importance is given to prayer, fasting, abstinence and doing concrete works of mercy. Hopefully, Lent is meant to have a profound and transforming experience on the life of a Christian which in turn would impact on wider society.
It is significant therefore, that in his message for Lent 2012, Pope Benedict XVI enjoins all Christians not to remain silent before evil, 'let us be concerned for each other', he says, 'to stir response in love and good works.'
Further, the Pope insists that all Christians cultivate a way, "of seeing others as our brothers and sisters, (so that) solidarity, justice, mercy and compassion will naturally well up in our hearts".
It is also symbolic that the first week of the Christian Lenten season coincides with the tenth anniversary of the Gujarat Carnage. The Pope in his message challenges all Christians when he says, "Christ himself commands us to admonish a brother who is committing a sin (cf. Mt 18:15). The verb used to express fraternal correction - elenchein – is the same used to indicate the prophetic mission of Christians to speak out against a generation indulging in evil (cf. Eph 5:11). The Church's tradition has included "admonishing sinners" among the spiritual works of mercy. It is important to recover this dimension of Christian charity. We must not remain silent before evil".
A great act of mercy for all, (not only for Christians), is to speak out and stand up against any evil!
21st February, 2012
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)
Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052