In the Christian tradition, Lent is the time before Easter in which Christians focus on simple living, prayer, and fasting in order to grow closer to God. Frank Molteno reflects on the nature of Lent and how we can enliven it this year with a renewed commitment to be mindful of the whole web of life and how we relate to it.
This Lent may God’s will be done in us
By Frank Molteno, One Web of Life
Lent is a time of preparation for Easter. Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus, confirmation of ‘God with us’, confirmation of life in Christ . . . from the beginning of time, through the life of Jesus as a human being, now and forever. In the words of Sister Joan Chittister, “Each succeeding year, Lent calls each of us to renew our ongoing commitment to the implications of the Resurrection in our own lives, here and now.”1
Lent is a time given to us to return to and, in penance and hope, reflect on the basics of our faith, to probe anew who Jesus is for us, who we are as children of God, who we, humans and animals – all creatures of God – are to each other, and who Christ is to Creation as a whole.
It is an opportunity for us to say again, ‘Yes’ to Jesus’ call for us to follow Him and an opportunity to review what it means in practical terms when we say, ‘I believe’. Crucially, it is an opportunity for me to ask myself how I personally have been responding to God? Have I been behaving in my daily doings and relationships in ways that help God’s will to be done on earth . . . or hinder it? Have I made myself available as a channel through which God’s love and compassion can flow freely or have I closed my eyes and ears, hardened my heart and become an instrument serving only myself and whatever I consider ‘mine’?
I am sobered by my own failures and by the brokenness of the world around me but I am not downhearted because we are the Easter people and we look forward to new life born out of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As part of God’s creation, we are intrinsically in relationship with God and with our fellow beings – human and animal – as well as with the Earth. The question is: are we in right relationships with them? This is fundamental to our salvation. Our faith can never be a matter merely of what we proclaim. Being in right relationship with God requires us to be in right relationships with each other as humans, with God’s other living creatures and with God’s creation as a whole – relationships lived out through what we think, say and do.
In addition to extra prayer and study of the Scriptures, a practice that Christians down the ages have commonly used to assist them in their reflections and self-review during Lent has been that of fasting. Particularly common has been abstention from meat and sometimes abstention from dairy and eggs as well. The reasons for Christians ‘giving up’ meat and other animal products have varied over time and from place to place. Whatever others’ reasons have been, this is a practice that we as contemporary Christians might want to consider to assist our own spiritual journey through Lent in preparation for renewing our baptismal vows at Easter.
Becoming more aware of what, and how much, is on our plates and what we are putting into our bodies, can help to deepen our prayers for a world that has become radically broken as a direct and indirect result of our own brokenness and our broken relationships with each other, with the Earth and thus with God. As Jesus took on the pain of this broken world, we too, as part of God’s indivisible Creation, cannot but feel the pain of others because we are connected to them all.
What pain is embodied in the food that we feed our bodies? What lives cut short? What childhoods lost? What natural pleasures denied? What massive quantities of water consumed? What toxins released into water, ground and air? What carbon footprint the journey of this food from its far-off source to my plate?
And what is my part in this chain of pain and destruction?
Most importantly, what can I do personally, as a channel of God’s love and compassion in the world, to break the chain of pain, to eliminate the causes of such pain, to mitigate its effects, to stop the destruction, and to bring healing? In what ways, no matter how small, can I work with rather than against God in restoring wholeness to God’s creatures and to all of God’s creation? This is the new life to which we look forward as the Easter people. Let us not despair. We have hope, “For,” in the words of Pope John Paul II, “we are an Easter People and ‘Alleluia’ is our song.”3
In local, contemporary Christian culture it is common for people during Lent to ‘give up’ something that they really enjoy – like chocolate or alcohol. This Lent, might an alternative be to ‘give up’ something that there is in my lifestyle that “hurts God’s covenant with the earth, with us, and with all living beings”2 – see Genesis 9:9-10?
Let us pray that, with God’s help, we become more mindful of our connection to all of God’s creatures and to the Earth through which God sustains us. Let us pray that we become more loving, kinder and more compassionate in all that we are and do. As Jesus taught us, we pray that God’s will be done on earth as in heaven . . .
- SAFCEI is part of the Green Monday campaign and as part of Lent and a renewed commitment to show care and love for all of God’s beings, we encourage you to sign up. The website has many useful tips and recipes that are very helpful in turning towards a more plant-based lifestyle.
- Have a look at Vegilicious’ event Vegan for Lent for further inspiration in making this a mindful and compassionate Lent.
1 Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year, Nashville: Thomas Nelson; 2009 (pp.110f)
2 Stephen V Sundborg, S.J., ‘An Ecological Lent’, https://www.seattleu.edu/president/speeches/; 2015
3 Address of His Holiness John Paul II to a Group of African Americans, Harlem, New York, Tuesday, 2 October 1979, http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/speeches/1979/october/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_19791002_usa-neri-america.html