Monday, February 8, 2016

Five reasons to observe lent

Another Lenten season has started and the same question arises. Why should I observe lent? What can inspire me to undergo the experience of lent? What kinds of lent are available. Here are five reasons for us to observe lent.

1. Having control of our mind. Why would Jesus have fasted for forty days? What did he do after he fasted for forty days? It does appear that Jesus was preparing for his ministry. It is said that human beings use hardly 10% of the capacity of their God given brain. Why aren’t they able to use the rest? It is primarily because they are doing things which they don’t need and in the process are also not being able to concentrate on the work at hand. Humans are also mighty bothered about what others are thinking and what is good and bad in their culture. This prevents us from using God’s greatest gift to human kind and that is our own mind. Lent is a time of taking control of our lives. It is to tell ourselves that there is a lot of good we can do for others and ourselves.
It is not to use our mind to control the minds of others but to use our mind to do good that we never thought was possible of us. It is to say that we usually give up on a struggle or don’t do something because we think that we are not capable of it. We end up not helping people not because we don’t want to but because we think we don’t have it in us. Lent gives us a great opportunity to use God’s grace through our body and make it count for someone else.

2. Forgiving is good for the mind. Forgiving others for any seeming bad they have committed against us is very good for us. Anger prevents us from forgiving and anger leads us to the next kick of getting into a fight with someone and this cycle never ends. This will lead to tensions in life and we will be very unsatisfied. Forgiving is not a prerequisite for lent which turns out to be a condition but it is something we should do out of our own free will so that it will lead to a better society.

Imagine a scenario of road rage which can be avoided with a simple smile and a better choice of words. But somehow it is not possible for us and we end up getting into a fight with someone over a matter which we later realize is not so important after all. Forgiving is never an act of weakness but an act of strength. It is not to say that we are giving up but to say that we have read any given situation better than the other person. It is a mature act of tolerance which will not make us weak but will make us strong because our mind is not obsessed with the anger we have for someone else but has already moved on.

3. Eating to share. Our culture is so obsessed with food that we are left eating all the time. It is as though we live to eat and eating is the only thing on our mind. Living to eat suggests that food is everything and all for us. This brings about a gorging on food and hoarding of food because lack of food will make us very unsettled and unsatisfied. Sharing the resources on mother earth is to truly believe that there is enough for all. Food shows, marts, restaurants, competitions, cookery books and choreographed pictures only make us more conscious and bothered about food and makes us personalize it to the extent of having it always. Lent helps to break this cycle of eating. It is not wrong to eat and Christ himself acknowledges that he and his disciples ate happily. But that was a community fellowship and not a culture of living to eat.

Eating to share means to look at whether others have eaten their share before we gorge on our own food. Is it enough to pray for the poor and the hungry or is it important to know that during lent and afterwards we should understand that what we are eating is also meant for someone else? There is enough food for everyone in this world. If that is the case why is more than half the population in India eating less than three times a day while doctors advise those who can afford a separate food regime to eat several times a day to avoid diabetes and other lifestyle diseases? Lent should be this understanding that we can eat less and reach out to those who don’t have anything to eat. This can be on several fronts. Some can donate to a home for the destitute where they are looking for a donation to cook the next meal, others can go to the streets and help many sleeping on the streets with nothing to eat, the church can start a food bank, while others still can identify a few people or at least one person they can employ and through that wipe out the hunger of an entire family.

4. Cleansing our thoughts. Lent is a time when we clean our system by eating slow, eating little and eating correct. It is not about purity and pollution but about cleansing our thoughts by having a light body and in a way to feel more energetic to do more. Slowing down helps us to think about family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances and others we see every day. It is to say that we can change the way we think.

This can help us in to engage with evils like gender discrimination, caste violence and class differentiation to name a few. It is to think with a clear mind and think better and realize that we are doing wrong to many people around us. It is to rise above the usual and offer our dining table to eat for the person who helps with chores at home, to give them a salary hike instead of spending it on something in the super market which we don’t even need. It is also to trust communities who we work with and who work for us and treat them like our own instead of having these differences based on colour and gender. Lent can definitely help this way.

5. Preparing for bad times. We are faced with a lot of ecological problems these days. Global warming is on the rise and that is already making a change to the earth and to various countries. Wars and genocide come up quickly and so swiftly that the population of the land is not ready for it. Natural disasters like the one which happened in Tamil Nadu remind us that we need to be ready for any eventuality. This being the case lent becomes a time to prepare for worse times. It is to live and eat on the most minimum and thereby prepare ourselves for any eventuality that could arise at any time. We realized with many natural disasters over the past few years that we have no idea how to survive if something happens and we have to depend a lot on divine intervention and government help.

Lent prepares us for any catch-22 situation and hardens us and strengthens us to face any eventuality. It is to work and think with the most meager of resources available so that we will survive an earth quake, a flood or any other disaster because we have already gone through a very humbling and difficult experience. Children and the aged can also be prepared. This is also where other kinds of Lenten forms help. Carbon fasting, abstaining from social media, mobile phones, television and other forms of the media teach us how to contact someone with very little technology, remember phone numbers and addresses, and walk for kilometers together when there is no other form of transport. Lent helps us with all of this.

Lent has changed over the years and yet there are so many things which remain the same. What has changed is that we can use lent to work on the different changes in our life which have happened over the past few years. Lent is so unique and a game changer and life enhancer for all. Try it. You will come out smarter and happier.

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