BY: Benedict Agbo (Rev Fr)



*Joel 2: 12 – 18, 2 Cor 5: 20 – 6: 2, Matt 6: 1 – 18.

Prophet Joel comes on point to us at this critical time in Nigeria when Christianity and Islam are turning more into merely extrinsic religions devoid of the intrinsic power of affecting change in our behaviour. He puts it metaphorically strong as follows: TEAR YOUR HEARTS AND NOT YOUR GARMENTS! What does he mean by that? Of course the garment is something you are wearing outside but your heart is your real self. Many of us are wearing Christianity and Islam like an extrinsic garment. A Catholic will promise his neighbour to give him a hot fight after mass while a Muslim will be chasing his enemy with a dagger and stop at the call for prayer, rush the prayer and quickly resume the chase. Why can’t the homily at mass or the prayer said regularly by the Muslim affect a change of heart in Christians and Muslims of Nigeria?

We need to pray for the gift of tears and mourning. The prophet Zechariah foresaw this and said: ‘ Over the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem I shall pour out a spirit of grace and prayer, and they will look to me. They will mourn for the one whom they have pierced as though for an only child’, Zech 12: 10. We need to have a deep sense of sin. According to Thomas Fuller, ‘He who falls into sin is a man; He was grieves in sin is a saint ; He who rejoices in sin is a devil’. We must learn how to be truly sorry for our sins and how to return to the Lord.
* Qualities of a good confession;
1. Deep meditation/ examination of conscience.
2. Penitential prayer before going to show yourself to the priest.
3. Firm purpose of amendment/ resolution after the confession.
4. Avoidance of occasions of sin.
5. Openness to a confessor/ spiritual director.


Jesus warns us in today’s gospel against hypocrisy: BEWARE OF PRACTICING YOUR PIETY BEFORE MEN IN ORDER TO BE SEEN BY THEM. This is done in the following 3 major ways;
1. HYPOCRITICAL OFFERING/ ALMSGIVING; Making ostentatious donations is not good if the intention of announcing your offering is to be seen and applauded by people. But there could be a better motive. Jesus said: ‘Let your light shine in people’s sight, so that seeing your good works, they may give praise to your father in heaven’, Matt 5: 16.
2. HYPOCRITICAL PRAYER; All forms of noisy prayer or praying in tongues that is not truly prompted by the Holy Spirit but mearnt to show off could be called hypothetical prayers. And this is becoming rampant in our churches today especially among us the Charismatics.
3. HYPOCRITICAL FASTING; Christ warns that we should not look dismal because we are fasting. Ladies who don’t dress fine and perfume themselves / anoint their faces with nice/ affordable creams in the name of piety (example some Charismatics and Precious blood devotees ) may end up falling into this category of Christians.

Let us make our ashes not to stop at our foreheads. Let them get to our hearts, lips, stomachs, etc. There are many other forms of fasting that are not from food according to Pope Francis; We could fast from hurting words, from sadness, from anger, from pessimism, from worries, from complaints and criticisms, from worldly pleasure like sex, from selfishness, from amorous Facebook or watsap chats and everything that distracts us from holiness and I add (now that we are in a period of election) from vote selling. The Nigerian brand of Christianity seems to promote a lot of hypocrisy; so much loud prayers without fight against corruption, favouritism, rigging of elections, stealing, killing, sexual immorality and all forms of evil. Now is the acceptable time; now is the time of salvation. Every Lenten season is a special season of metanoia. May God help us to repent! Happy Lenten Season!


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