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The continuing journey that is Lent

Fr Andrew Apostoli

by Juliana Valdez

Although this episode of Sunday Night Prime with Fr Andrew Apostoli was recorded and aired before his death, it was aired again recently, I guess because it is the season of Lent and the contents continue to be relevant.

Entitled ‘The Spiritual Meaning of Lent’, Fr Andrew gave viewers advice on ways to make the season a more meaningful one, sharing also memories of his own childhood experiences which sustained him then.

Lent, Fr Andrew shared, is a penitential time of reflection, more ardent prayer, self-denial and listening to the Word. All this, he continued, is part of our personal preparation as we journey with Jesus. In this way we are “conditioning” ourselves to celebrate with joy, the resurrection at Easter.

Fr Andrew made this comparison: the Olympic athletes sacrifice, train and condition their bodies with special diet etc, to ensure that when they compete they are in top form for the goal, a medal and a crown of flowers. What are we, as people of God, doing to ensure that we stay in top spiritual shape for our crown of eternity?

He advised: Make time for prayer. Pray the rosary. As St John Paul II in 2002 advised, if you pray it once, try praying it twice. Encourage praying the rosary as a family prayer. Pray the Stations of the Cross; renew this prayer fervently during Lent since it seems to be a waning practice. Make time for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Observing that a lot of the traditional rituals and practices for Lent have been lost or watered down during the years, Fr Andrew reminisced about fasting, abstinence and almsgiving, activities which made his childhood Lenten season meaningful.

Lent he said, is commemorating the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness after His baptism, praying and fasting. The Church, he went on, gives us these 40 days of Lent to prepare spiritually for the Paschal Mystery of Christ, His passion, crucifixion and death, the victory of the resurrection at Easter, and the glorification of His ascension.

Jokingly, Fr Andrew made mention of the ‘A & P Catholics’ (Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday) who fill the church on these days and are not seen again until the season returns. Even to them the Church gives the season that all can use it as a time of reflection on how our lives are being lived.

It is a time for us to examine our consciences with regards to our relationship with God and others, a time to look at our lives, recognising and acknowledging where we need to change the most and making the effort to do so and continue long after the season ends. “Make resolutions and try to keep them!” Fr Andrew advised.

Lent is also a time Fr Andrew shared, when we contemplate the sacredness of life (marriage, family, birth and death), our religious freedom to believe and worship, to recognise, repent and turn away from all that is preventing us from living lives truly pleasing to God.

Viewing the programme, lyrics of many hymns we sing during this season played in my mind, and I thought just how appropriate they were as motivators for our reflection and examination of conscience: ‘Come Back to Me’; ‘Father, I Have Sinned’; ‘God of Mercy and Compassion’, ‘Jesus My Lord Behold at Length the Day’, ‘Return to the Lord’ and so many more. It is said that, “When we sing, we pray twice,” and these are indeed prayers which we sing.

Are we trying to live so that Jesus can call us to our heavenly inheritance? The journey continues.