[COLUMN] Lent: A heightened season of grace

THE Lenten season has commenced! Traditionally, it is viewed as a time of sacrifice, a period in which we forgo certain worldly pleasures and devote more time to prayer. While this is true, let us not overlook the joy, promise, and transformative effects that Lent can bring into our lives.

A fellow priest once described it as an adventure, an exciting opportunity to foster a deeper connection with God. Personally, I see it as a heightened moment of grace, characterized by both joy and inner transformation.

I wholeheartedly extend an invitation to embrace this promising season of grace willfully, earnestly, and enthusiastically.

As we commence this First Sunday of Lent, our Readings prompt us to reflect upon the joy inherent in God’s promise. The legendary account of Noah and the Ark serves as a testament to God’s covenant with all creation. His authority extends over the world and our lives, symbolized by the rainbow in the sky, signifying His covenant with Noah, his descendants, and all living beings. God has not abandoned humanity; the rainbow serves as a reminder to Him of this covenant, not to us. Just as God saved Noah and the animals from the Great Flood, He will also deliver future generations from a tumultuous world.

Our psalm readings this Sunday, specifically Psalm 25, affirm God’s covenant: “Remember that your compassion, O Lord, and your love are from of old. In your kindness, remember me because of your     goodness, O Lord.”

The Second Reading delves deeper into this message of hope. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, we have been cleansed of sin and gifted with a new life. Dianne Bergant, CSA, in   collaboration with Richard Fragomeni in Preaching the New Lectionary, explains:

“Just as Noah saved others from the devastating waters of the flood, so Christ saved humanity from the ultimate destruction of separation from God. Just as those in the ark had to endure the flood to enter a new creation, Christians must pass through the waters of baptism to embrace a renewed conscience. Baptism is not merely a simple cleansing, but a transformative experience.”

The Gospel according to Mark (1:12-15) may be short, but it holds profound symbols and meanings. The desert, despite being a place of wilderness and temptation, also symbolizes purification, renewal, strength, fidelity, and      commitment, as demonstrated by Jesus in his resistance to the devil’s temptations. The forty-day period of fasting calls upon us to approach Lent with a disciplined heart, mind, and spirit of conversion, knowing that doing so can lead us to freedom and joy. Jesus’ proclamation of the Gospel after praying and fasting for forty days in the desert signifies the arrival of God’s kingdom, which Israel has been eagerly anticipating, contingent upon a change of heart (known as metanoia) and acceptance of the Good News that he preached.

Let us embrace the Lenten season with faith, gratitude, and an open heart. May this period of sacrifice and reflection grant us the opportunity to grow closer to God and experience the joy and transformation it brings to our lives.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.


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