Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Mid Lent, Exaltation of Cross
Volume 7 No. 404 March 21, 2017
We are at halfway point in Great Lent. Today we remember the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus Christ - Christ with us - by bringing the Golgotha with the Cross (Sleeba) in the midst of us. The sleeba symbolize Jesus Christ. Jesus, during his earthly ministry, was among us; not in a palace or a throne like people traditionally believe a King should reside. Jesus' kingdom is different than the earthly kingdom.

Church also reminds us that the purpose of Jesus' incarnation was to offer himself as a ransom for our sins and liberate us from the sin of Adam and Sin, the sin that brought death to us. So, he always knew the cross is ahead of Him. We should know that too.

We remember the public ministry of Jesus by recalling a miracle or sign performed by Jesus. Jesus did that so that we can believe in Him. So, we recall the first miracle, the converting water into wine at Cana on the first Sunday of Lent and ends on the 41st day (Saturday after 40th Friday) with the raising of Lazarus, one of the last miracles performed by Jesus before his crucifixion. Now we can go confidently with the observance of the Passion or Holy Week beginning with the Palm Sunday and ending with the resurrection of Jesus on Easter. Mission accomplished.

As we complete half of the Lent, it is also time to review our progress. Ninety percent of the people think that lent means restricting our diet and avoid eating meats and animal products. If that is all you got accomplished this far, your lent is a big failure.

In fact, what is fasting? I came across a homily titled, 'God's Common Sense Fasting'. The gist of the message was:

"God has better common sense than man. Many times we look at things from the microscopic level and fail to understand the bigger picture or their rationale. Sometimes we comply with a technical attitude rather than with a discerning spirit behind the word of God. Take for instance fasting. The end or goal of fasting is not to make us suffer, nor to make us observe the rules faithfully and in the end, commit sin by quarrelling or boasting. The purpose of fasting is to convert, to repent and turn away from the worldliness of our being, and to enter into a spirit of love and communion with God. We miss the point if we don't understand the laws of God with the correct spirit of charity."

Lent can be thought of as a three legged stool. One leg is fasting. But then there is prayer and charity as the other legs of the stool. Reconciliation of the issues with your neighbor, meditation and confession of your sins, etc. are integral parts of the lent. If you forget about diet control and do the others, your lent is 90% successful. Controlling food gives us the discipline in controlling our behavior and get us ready to do the higher things. Most of us ignore the higher things and only worry about controlling the diet.

There is some confusion as to what is charity. It is more than helping the poor. Let us take a look at The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. The Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy illustrate the ways to show charity toward others.

The Corporal Works of Mercy

Feed the hungry
Give drink to the thirsty
Clothe the naked
Shelter the homeless
Visit the sick
Visit the imprisoned
Bury the dead

The Spiritual Works of Mercy

Admonish the sinner
Instruct the ignorant
Counsel the doubtful
Comfort the sorrowful
Bear wrongs patiently
Forgive all injuries
Pray for the living and the dead

Charity is a big, expansive field. One bishop told me that the least we should do is to donate the money we save during the fasting to help the poor. That definitely is a good idea.

Please read the Malankara World Supplement on Great Lent to learn more ideas.

Let me conclude by quoting LL Pope John Paul II who described the Lent in a Homily titled "In the secret of the heart":

"Lent is the time to come back to our self. It is a time of particular intimacy with God, in the secret of the heart and of the conscience. It is in this private intimacy with God that the essential work of Lent is accomplished: the work of conversion.

And in this inner secret, in this intimacy with God in the full truth of the heart and of the conscience, words like those of the psalms of today's liturgy resound as one of the most profound confessions that man has ever done to God: "Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense. Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me. For I know my offense; my sin is always before me. Against you alone have I sinned; I have done such evil in your sight that you are just in your sentence, blameless when you condemn" (Ps 50,1-6).

These are words that purify, words that transform. They transform man from the inside. Let us recite them often during Lent. And above all, let us strive to renovate the spirit that leads them, the inspiration that has rightly so given these words a force of conversion. For Lent is essentially an invitation to conversion. The works of alms of which the Gospel speaks about today open the way to this conversion. Let us practice them as much as we can. But first of all, let us try to meet God interiorly in our whole life, in all it is made of, so as to reach this conversion in deepness, of which the penitential psalm of today's liturgy is filled."
- Pope John Paul II, Homily for Ash Wednesday, 1983

Congratulations on completing half of the journey. If you were not observing the lent so far, it is not too late to start now.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World


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