Reflection & Dialogue with Questions of the Day: Message of Lent: The central Christian creed. Religion and Spirituality
Today’s liturgy presents an opportunity to reflect on some central Christian truths. The Jewish creed of the first reading had Israel reflect on God’s goodness in the past. The creed in the second reading is a stark statement that that past has ended with Christ’s coming. In belief and the service of the living God, what counts is life in Christ and the righteousness, the right relationship to God, that it brings. Paul contrasts efforts to establish one’s own righteousness with the righteousness that comes from God. What counts in the new Christian age is the belief in Christ and open confession of his name, a belief which means the acceptance of God’s work in Christ, and the saving activity of Christ for the individual and the Church he has founded.
In relation to the central text of today’s reading “If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved”, some commentators of the text note the position of some contemporary Christians who contrast “religion” with a “relationship” with God, or contrast “religion” with “spirituality”, stating that they do not practice “religion”, attend Church and such like practises but have a “relationship” with God, or that they have a spirituality, but do not agree with “religion”. True “spirituality” for believing Christians is the working of the Holy Spirit giving the gift of faith, giving confidence to call on God as “Father”. It includes contact with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit in the Church of Christ—what many believers will describe as religion.
After these reflections let us return to the period of Lent and its messages. Lent is not a time for mere externals, sackcloth and ashes. It is a period of forty days in which to reflect on the Christian mystery, on Christian life in Christ, on the dignity and dangers to the human person and on God’s message through Christ regarding all these truths. Lent is a call to turn away from false values and turn to the Gospel message. The period calls for reflection and devotion. Faith is nourished by devotion, personal and collective, whether in parish or family. Devotion need not be ostentatious. It can be personal and quiet, for instance reflecting on Fridays on Jesus’ call to follow him, and in honour of his Passion by abstaining from meat (by use fish or otherwise) at the main meal. And there are many other ways.