Yesterday began the annual observance of the sacred Lenten season on the Christian liturgical calendar.
Ash Wednesday marks the start and lasting until Palm Sunday, the week before Easter Sunday, the Lenten season is 40 days, not counting Sundays. It is intended to mirror the period Jesus spent in the wilderness at the beginning of his earthly ministry.
And while it appears in our increasingly secular society, that acts of penance, prayer and preparation for the celebration of Easter are waning, we should perhaps not be too quick to dismiss this time of reflection which could possibly be much more than giving up a treat or two.
For many Christians think of sacrificing certain pleasures just as Jesus Christ went without food for 40 days and 40 nights. Alcohol, television, meat, coffee, even sex immediately comes to mind. The idea is to use this sensory deprivation to focus our minds – and souls – on prayerful reflection on our lives.
Others, while staying clear of the religious traditions, also use the time to reflect and make necessary changes to improve their lives. This is a necessary practice as we all strive to become better human beings.
Yesterday, Roman Catholic priest Father Clement Paul sounded the call for transformation across Barbados as he lamented recent disturbing developments he likened to “desert” conditions.
He said: “The fact that we can find ourselves in the Canadian news and in international news that somebody, that a visitor was robbed and crippled, being shot, that is desert.
“That we are still reeling from the fact that outside of a primary school a shooting can take place – desert.
“The fact that we can have talk of news of people taking their own lives and we have had one or two of them – desert.”
His solutions to these problems include spending more time in prayer and fasting. We concede that may only have meaning for the faithful.
Where most of us can agree, though, is that we can’t allow these negative trends to destroy our society. Our actions speak louder than words and we all have to play a part in making this a better place to live.
So apart from giving up the superficial for the period, struggling to park some habits for a while, we should also contribute to the change so badly needed by taking on a good habit, giving back or making a positive, permanent, lifestyle change.
Young people all around us need guidance. Those boys on the block may just need a listening ear, a helping hand or some sound advice to turn their lives around from a path of crime and doom.
Our elderly folk, those living alone and others left in nursing homes, may just need some good company, or a hot meal.
The vagrant on the street that we shun every day as we rush to the office, might just need a clean shirt and a pleasant good morning to feel like a human being.
Workers can choose to be more productive, bosses to be fairer, Christians more Christ-like, and children more obedient.
Lent is as good a time as any to atone for our sins of commission and omission or break any bad habits we have acquired over time. Rather than give up something trivial, let’s make a commitment to give a little of our time to others and help improve the world in which we live.