A time to undertake concrete forms of interior renewal
- My venerable brothers in the Priesthood, my dear Deacons and Seminarians, my beloved Religious Men and Women, and my treasured Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
- We are again privileged with the Season of Lent; a providential opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian living. This period of time offers us an occasion to rediscover our reality as sinners and appreciate the mercy and love of God. And consequently it impels us to undertake concrete forms of interior renewal by way of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
- Lent, as it were, is an auspicious time of an interior pilgrimage towards God, the fount of mercy. And during this period of time, God Himself accompanies us through the desert of our own sinfulness; in the arid of our own poverty; in the drought of our own affection; in the valley of our own tribulation; in the darkness of our own bewilderment; and in the night of our own doubt and denial.
- An array of scriptural passages testifies to God’s accompaniment of His people. The book of the Exodus in the Old Testament remains one of the best examples of God’s fidelity in accompanying His people despite all odds. This is later articulated in Jesus’ farewell discourse and commissioning of His disciples that He will always accompany them till the end of time (Cf. Mt. 28 20). St. Marks’ Gospel postulates Jesus’ accompaniment of the crowds, by being available to them. He spends himself by teaching, healing and feeding them.“Jesus was moved with pity at the sight of the crowd,” (Cf. Mk. 6:34ff).
- Jesus was touched and moved with pity because the crowds were like sheep without a shepherd. It is this reality that prompted Jesus to spend Himself teaching them, curing them and feeding He accompanied the crowds in their ignorance of faith, by bringing God into their lives and bringing them to God. He restored their brokenness and their spiritual destitution by sharing with them His power and presence that redeemed them from the dominion of evil, sickness and pain. And from the depth of His love and generosity He fed them, sharing with them from His own benevolence so as to strength them on their spiritual and physical journey.
- In the same vein, Jesus spends Himself for you and me through His Word which transforms us into His own likeness. He spends Himself totally in His death to restore us to our original dignity as sons and daughters of God, the Father. He spends Himself by satisfying us with His Spirit and above all with His presence in the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist. Thus, Jesus transforms us by reforming and converting us through turning us away from sin and facing us towards God, thereby conforming us to His personality and likeness.
- From the foregoing, Lenten Season is an invitation to each and every one of us to a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, the Teacher, Healer and Provider. Once, we encounter Jesus, we shall never be the same. We shall have a new paradigm congruent to the encounter and experience of Jesus Christ. We shall be restored anew, richer in the knowledge, the love and the mercy of God, which urges us to share the same with our brothers and sisters.
- It is this personal encounter of Jesus that propels us to imitate Him as teacher, healer and provider to others. The Word of God and our personal encounter with Jesus urges us to teach by witnessing to the core values of our Christian faith in Him who said I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was homeless and you welcomed me; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and in prison and you visited me (Cf. Mt. 25: 34 – 36). On these words lie our faith and our Christian witness.
- Our personal encounter with Jesus impels us to become co-healers to others. In the same measure that God has restored us from our own brokenness, forgiven us from our own sinfulness. And we feel duty bound to share and extend the same restoration and healing onto others especially the poor, the marginalized, lonely, rejected, imprisoned, abandoned, the old, the sick and the abused.
- Our experience of Jesus arouses in us to feed those who hunger, not only for bread but also for love, for compassion to be somebody to someone. Those who are naked, not only for clothing but also for protection like the vulnerable and the abused. Those who are homeless, not only for shelter made of stone, but also that homelessness that comes from having no one to call your own, like the orphaned, aged, sick, widowed, widower and single parents.
- Those who are thirsty not only for water, but also for job opportunities and just wages, clean water and proper housing, medical care and educational facilities, good road network and grain storage facilities. Those who are imprisoned, not only in physical prisons but also in mind because they lack educational opportunities to help them make informed decisions; as well as those who lack empowerment so as to make them lead independent lives.
- May our prayers, our fasting and our reaching out to others in almsgiving this Lenten Season be a fruit of our personal encounter with Jesus Christ and an inner conversion. May Mary, the Mother of the Risen Lord, intercede for us. And, I impart my Apostolic Blessing on all of you and those you will share this Lenten Message with.
- Given this at Ndola, Cathedral of Christ the King, this 19th day of February in the Year of our Lord, 2012.
+Dr. Alick Banda
Bishop of Ndola