BY REV. FR. KAREKIN BEDOURIAN
There are several times, occasions and moments throughout the year that are opportunities for human beings to think or contemplate and to align the path of life accordingly. They are reminders to reevaluate the course of our physical and spiritual lives, and continue with renewed recommendations. Each person needs such opportunities and reminders; otherwise our lives would be aimless and doomed to stagnation and regression.
Returning to God. At first glance, such expression very likely will sound a bit strange. To justify ourselves, we could think that we strayed away from God, so that we should return back to Him, and if the answer is yes, where did we go to? how far away are we? why have we drifted? we can ask ourselves a series of such questions.
Returning to God means to test ourselves to evaluate our spiritual life that every Christian individual has, and to what capacity it is lived and personified. Our present lifestyle offered by the world, will definitely and eventually cause every Christian to stop and ponder, where am I? where is this path in life leading to?
The Great Lent period is the best opportunity to consider the above questions, and to redirect our path back toward God, the fountain of our faith. In our hectic lives, we do not realize, nor give a second thought regarding where we are in our spiritual life, and what is our relationship with our Creator.
In the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 6, Jesus teaches and advises the faithful, and aslo to all of us today regarding the important principles we need to follow that lead to salvation. All during the Great Lent, these teachings are constantly reminded to the faithful.
Alms or Good Deeds (Matthew 6:1-4)
Doing good deeds is a virtue of human nature, where the individual will go beyond his own self and do a good deed towards another human being in need. An individual does a good deed by applying and realizing all things learned. First and foremost, the individual benefits from doing the good deeds because it pleases God, and it is an important act that leads the faithful towards the path of salvation. We must be careful though. Doing good deeds may easily lead the individual towards pride and egocentric sin. That is why Jesus recommends not to do alms with “trumpet and drumroll”, rather expect to be rewarded from God, by turning to God.
Prayer (Matthew 6:5-15)
Prayer is the core in the life of a believer. Prayer is nourishment to the soul, which balances and makes the believer mindful. The believer is called to pray to God, which is the reflection of faith, character and lifestyle. The Lord’s Prayer, in its concise content, is the true dialogue between the faithful’s heart and God, and as a result the individual will not stray from God, and his/her path will be redirected back to the Creator.
Fasting and Abstaining (Matthew 6:16-18)
Fasting is the physically visible part of the journey during Lent and a beneficial lifestyle to get closer to God. Fasting has come through the centuries, and has biblical value and origin as a lifestyle, and strives to deepen the spiritual life, to refine the soul, by subjecting the body to deprivation. It is important to accept fasting in its correct application and especially to understand the true meaning. Christ’s message is very clear. Fasting is for the faithful, it is a sign of devotion towards God, not a subject to announce to others, and with the words of Jesus, “to be rewarded by humans.”
The climax of all these is the wealth accumulated in heaven, which is not depleted and it is safe (Matthew 6:19-21).
Therefore, the faithful is invited to make most use of the Lenten season, to be freed and distancing the self from all the habits, acts and deeds that prevent spiritual enrichment, so that after the Lenten period we can adopt and continue the achieved lifestyle that is acceptable and pleasing to God.
Prayers for a blessed period of fasting and returning to God…
Rev. Fr. Karekin Bedourian is the parish priest of the Forty Martyrs Armenian Church in Orange County.