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Don’t make Lenten journey only about “I”

The Lenten period is not to be an “I-centred spirituality” Vicar General, Cathedral Administrator Fr Martin Sirju reminded Catholics as he presided at the noon Ash Wednesday (February 22) Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Port of Spain.

“So often the Season of Lent is looked on as spiritual enlightenment for myself…something good for me, a kind of self-enlightenment and self-advancement so at the end of the Lenten season we feel good about ourselves”, he said.

While there is nothing wrong with personal spiritual growth, he reminded that Lent begins with “I” and “me” but should not end there. There is a community/communal aspect which compels individuals beyond themselves. He surmised that a possible cause for T&T not being as advanced, efficient, and developed as it could be because Lent remains on the level of “I”.

Fr Sirju acknowledged the challenge of doing “self-work” however, the internal leads to the external and building of God’s Kingdom in the world.

“The vision of Jesus therefore is not just for the self. The purpose of Lent is twofold: it is myself on the one hand and how can I make the world a better place…the parish, the work environment in my office a better place, how can I make my marriage a better marriage, how can I be more responsible in my professional life.”

Fr Sirju urged that change in professional life can be used to “do something for the poor”. He shared his concern with job losses during the Covid pandemic and tenants at the mercy of landlords who hike rents and persons are evicted.

He pointed to the growing number of homeless people on the streets and questioned the high cost— $800,000–$1.2 million, of housing with the Housing Development Corporation.

Fr Sirju asked: “In the Season of Lent, can we not think through and change our mentality and how we do things so as we work on ourselves, we work on community, we work on institutions and we make our country a more just society in which to live?”.

On another point, he observed that Lenten practices were being done “by rote” becoming ritualistic instead of being rituals which took them somewhere spiritually.

He referred to Pope Francis’ instruction for the faithful to listen for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and also what it is saying when they gathered as community to pray.

In practising self-discipline, he suggested focus on one aspect of life to improve, e.g., being a better husband, a better teacher. Then consider how to achieve this.  Fr Sirju said the Holy Spirit could be asked what “measures to use and in what proportion”. He explained that one could do more prayer or fasting.

“The purpose of all this… is to change.”  Fr Sirju said there was nothing sadder than someone being part of church 30–40 years but were unchanged in their thinking and actions. —LPG