Message of Lent in Preparation for Easter 2019: Let us Renew our commitment to Christian Faith and Homeland
Lent season is dedicated to: pray; self-revision; repentance; improve our thoughts, behavior and relationships; control our passions; and to help needy people, including sick, hungry, thirsty, naked and the abandoned ones. “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me”.
(Matthew 25:40). Prophet Isaiah stated that too in chapter 58 verse 7 “Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own”. This means that every one of us is responsible for his /her brother and that God will hold us accountable for what we did to and with them.
Lent is not just to stop eating certain food for a limited time, but should be accompanied by giving up “bad” manners, especially tongue slips and gossip without knowing the truth. Fasting is actually an opportunity for training ourselves to pay attention to the spiritual calls, and the signs of times, and this is how our “ancestors” spent lent season, decently. Therefore, we must follow this spirituality in building our hope, despite the circumstances and challenges we face, on daily basis.
A “genuine” Christian, whatever is his or her position, should not allow anyone or anything affecting his or her attitude in faith negatively, and not let a single day pass without being united with Jesus Christ, the Savior, i.e. without entering the “mystery of Christ’s pascal and resurrection”.
Our Christian identity in all its’ dimensions is “a privilege and a grace from God”. We should practice it with enthusiasm and joy and look at it as a way to spread love and peace, so as to enrich the culture of our society.
In fact, Iraq is “motherland, home and identity” for Iraqi Christian, where our Church was founded, rooted, and made history, and where we were the vast majority, before the arrival of Muslims. Specifically, for Chaldeans who have been here since the time of “Abraham”. Hence, we must remain here, in spite of all the sacrifices. Therefore, Christians today, through their mission, are strongly called upon, to hold on to their Iraqi identity.
Middle East Christians are called to overcome the barrier of minority, fear and dependency, bravely and determinedly and in order to shape-up a clear vision for their stay in these countries, they should unite “with one will” and strengthen their ties with their “native” Muslim, Yazidis and Sabean citizens by enhancing trust, presence and contributing to build a more peaceful, stable, fair and secure society. This kind of relations should be considered as a commitment of faith, humanity and nationalism. On the other hand, when we do not stick to our Christian and national identity, we will be contradicting what the Lord Jesus taught us, and we won’t fulfill our ecclesiastical and national aspirations.
Therefore, during this Lenten Season, I suggest that we donate our savings of daily “meals” to buy food for the starved, medicine for the sick, tuition fees for the overloaded students, as well as rent allowance, and probably renovating a school in one of the towns that has been destroyed by ISIS “Da’ash”. This is the only way to make our lent a great opportunity to live our faith and to put into practice the Bible teaching that we follow.
In Baghdad, there will be a “box” in every Church, where you can put your donation. The Chaldean Patriarchate is allocating $50,000 for this purpose, as we did on Christmas 2018.
In summary, the spirituality of our Church is a “mystical” one, a spirituality of affection, martyrdom, and of being attached to the homeland.
I wish you all, a blessed lent
Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako
Patriarch of the Chaldean Church