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 | By Sister Ann Shields

A Different Approach to Lent

In this season of Lent, I would like to ask you to consider a different approach to repentance, fasting and almsgiving. Notice, I said a different approach to the three pillars of the Lenten season. During this time devoted to understanding and answering the call to the New Evangelization, I have become aware of how many people have almost no idea of their dignity, their worth, their call as Christians.

Many of us have imbibed the world’s view to “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we shall die.” In other words, think only of what you want and get all the enjoyment out of life that you possibly can because death is inevitable and there’s nothing after death …

What a contrast to this incident in the Gospel:

“Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and (Jesus) preached the word to them. They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Child, your sins are forgiven.’” (Mark 2:2-5; see also Luke 5:17-26)

Those men in the Gospel did not let difficulty stop them from bringing their friend to Jesus. It took faith that Jesus could help their friend. It took faith to “brave” the crowd; it took hard and potentially dangerous effort to get their friend to the feet of Jesus. Fueled by faith in Jesus, however, they persevered, and when Jesus saw their faith, he forgave the man his sins. Astounding! Those men were true believers and did what real friends do – brought their sick friend to the one who could heal. After Christ had forgiven his sins, then he healed the poor man’s body. We need to do the same for those we love.

Listen to the words of Charles Spurgeon, a Protestant pastor, commenting on this passage:

“Faith is full of inventions. The house was full, a crowd blocked up the door, but faith found a way of getting at the Lord and placing the palsied man before him. If we cannot get sinners where Jesus is by ordinary methods we must use extraordinary ones. It seems, according to Luke 5:19, that a tiling had to be removed, which would make dust and cause a measure of danger to those below, but where the case is very urgent we must not mind running some risks and shocking some proprieties. Jesus was there to heal, and therefore fall what might, faith ventured all so that her poor paralyzed charge might have his sins forgiven. O that we had more daring faith among us!

Cannot we, dear reader, seek it this morning for ourselves and for our fellow-workers, and will we not try to-day to perform some gallant act for the love of souls and the glory of the Lord. The world is constantly inventing; genius serves all the purposes of human desire: cannot faith invent too, and reach by some new means the outcasts who lie perishing around us? It was the presence of Jesus which excited victorious courage in the four bearers of the palsied man: is not the Lord among us now? Have we seen his face for ourselves this morning? Have we felt his healing power in our own souls? If so, then through door, through window, or through roof, let us, breaking through all impediments, labour to bring poor souls to Jesus. All means are good and decorous when faith and love are truly set on winning souls. If hunger for bread can break through stone walls, surely hunger for souls is not to be hindered in its efforts. O Lord, make us quick to suggest methods of reaching Thy poor sin-sick ones, and bold to carry them out at all hazards." (Spurgeon’s Morning by Morning, Sept. 7)

Jesus wants us, brothers and sisters, to live with him forever! Heaven is real, eternal life is real, for those who put their faith and hope in him.

Sister Ann Shields is a member of the Servants of God’s Love.

This article was originally published March 2014.