As the Catholic Church marks Ash Wednesday, which the start of a new liturgical calendar, the Catholic Bishop of Oyo Diocese, Most Rev. Emmanuel Badejo, has urged Nigerians to draw closer to God.
Badejo, who made the call on Wednesday in Ibadan, said this was pertinent, especially with current global events.
According to the priest, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the 40 days of Lenten period in the Christian calendar and is characterised by applying ashes on the foreheads of parishioners to signify that all the earthly struggles will end one day and mankind will return to dust.
“At Lent, we must leave every negative thing and let evil not triumph. Lent should be a period of repentance, regeneration and refreshment.
“It is a time for rekindling our love for God and our neighbour, we just need to take a look at creation to realize that Lent is not just for Christians alone, but for all humans,” he said.
According to him, during the Lenten period, children of God are called to change for better to jettison their old ways and seek newness of spirit and soul.
He noted that the reality of the present time, the COVID 19 pandemic, called for the need for genuine repentance.
“Every devastating disaster, like the current pandemic, occurs with some responsibility of the human element; if everyone had been doing everything correctly and rightly, perhaps this would not have happened.
“Fasting helps to guide us from selfishness, sin and evil.
“The COVID-19 pandemic cannot be an excuse for not celebrating Lent, it should be an enhancement for it.
“At a period like this, we all need spiritual support and reassurance, let those who can help others with money, food, companionship and others do so,” he advised.
Badejo urged citizens to use this period to forgive one another, re-examine their lives and reinforce with prayer, fasting and a greater appreciation of the word of God.
“Lent is a period of spiritual reinforcement, Christians must go back to their roots whereby God’s love brought them to life and put God again at the centre of their lives at all times.
“Our lives as true Christians must be dictated by Christ, not by others who do evil; with the situation of things in the world, Christians have an ever-greater job, to salvage the situation through prayer and good works,” he said.
He, therefore, urged religious leaders to emulate both Jesus Christ and John the Baptist, by living exemplary lifestyles and preaching the truth to their members at all times.
“Let us speak the truth to all sinners to repent and avoid God’s harsh judgment.
“Let us always expose and stop the charlatans among us, deceiving the people continually and claiming to have breakfast with God every day.
“Always know that no sinner will see the face of God, no country which runs by soothsaying, fortune-telling and predictions, has ever made it.
“Nations develop by facts, figures, statistics and then by prayer, fear of God and righteous living, let us make these our watchword,” he said.