Lenten Period: Don’t Just Abstain, Give Up Habits – Bishop Okoye Tells Christians

By Chioma Ndife

As Awka Diocesan Catholic Faithful join their counterparts all over the world to commemorate the Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of the Lenten Season, the auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese, Most Rev. Jonas Benson Okoye, has urged Christians to give up on habits which threaten their relationship with God rather than abstaining from such habits only during the Lenten season.

Bishop Okoye gave the advice while speaking exclusively to Fides on the attitude which Christians were expected to adopt to make their Lenten season impactful. He said it was important for people to develop resistance to some bad habits and make firm resolutions not to return to such after the season.

He regretted that most people abstained from excessive drinking, smoking, sexual immorality, among other sinful habits and take up the attitude of giving to the poor through the proceeds which they accumulated from the stoppage of the habit, only to go back to such habits at the end of the season.

He identified weakness of the human body as the major reason why most people returned to their old life after each Lenten season. He noted that such resolution could only be steady by the grace of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit which, he said, can only be obtained through prayer and fasting, the two cardinal points of lent.

He noted that it was necessary for people to give up complaining, bitterness, excessive worry, discouragement, hatred, anger and gossiping, alongside leaving their comfort zones a little to make others a bit comfortable. He advocated for Christians who give up on such habits to focus on gratitude, turn on forgiveness, place more trust in God, become full of hope, return good for evil, applying control to the tongue and becoming more patient with the things of world. He noted that embracing such good attitudes would bring out the hidden angelic nature which God placed in all His created beings.

In his words, ‘Most often during every Lenten season we think of giving up something. Our bad ways of life, accumulated habits and some life styles. Doing this is a great thing. Others go out of their way to stop the intake of meat, sweets, chocolates, ice creams, drinks, among others, and use the funds meant for these items to render more help to the less privileged in order to make them more comfortable. All this is beautiful. What happens after each Lenten season is what we have to concern ourselves more with. Most often, we go back to our past life.

‘The reason for this is not far-fetched, human weakness comes into play. God’s Grace is importance, it will enable us to remain firm in our decision and continue living out the Christ Like attitude which we had adopted during the Lenten season.

‘It is also very necessary that we, as Christians, should also start thinking of giving up completely on some habits alongside abstinence.

‘If as a person, you complain a lot, try and focus more on gratitude. Bitterness should be turned to forgiveness, worry should be given up for more trust to be developed in God. More hope should be developed for life’s vicissitudes. Just like Christ, return good for evil deeds and hatred. Mediate more and give more time to prayers rather than gossip as caution should be applied to the tongue,’ he stated.

The Catholic prelate identified the Lenten period which starts on the day of Ash Wednesday and ends after a period of forty days, as a holy season which people, especially Christians, must pay maximum attention to.

He maintained that discipline must be applied to the desires of the flesh in order to attain one’s spiritual goals and as a means of partaking in the sufferings of Christ. He noted that people at this period of lent were expected to create more time for private prayers and meditation as it helped in consolidating one’s inner relationship with God. He enjoined the faithful to make adequate use of the season by reconciling their stained relationships and grievances with their fellow men and going for the sacrament of reconciliation as such restored blessing from God.

The Awka auxiliary Bishop charged the people to demonstrate acts of charity, especially to the needy, without attracting public praise.

He noted that giving must not necessarily come in the form of material things and funds but could also come in form of time, saying people could devote more time in the service of others.