2024 Lenten Message of Most Rev. Matthew Man-Oso NDAGOSO,


Archbishop of Kaduna 
"But when he came to himself, he said... I will arise and go to my father, 
and I will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before 
you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your 
hired servants. And he arose and came to his father" (Lk. 15: 18-20).

Each year we undertake the Lenten journey, a journey of return to God, the church's most intense penitential season to help us prepare well for the celebration of the paschal mystery with renewed hearts and minds as we contemplate and recall the great events that gave us new life. During this season we are challenged to reconsider whether our life focused is on God or on ourselves and to also reconsider the path we are on right now in life and try to answer the call of God to return to him.
We started this journey by marking ourselves with ashes, one of humankind's most penitential symbol. The ashes which are eloquent signs call us to the reality of the present state of our lives and a readiness to at least try to see our lives as God sees them, to value in our lives what God does and to try to purge our lives of everything that has been wasted, vain and foolish. Lent is a sacramental sign of conversion which invites Christians to embody the paschal mystery more deeply and concretely in their personal, family and social lives by fasting, prayer and alms-giving (cf. Pope Francis, 2019 Lenten Message).
The penitential journey we have embarked on during this season of grace is meant to lead us to reconciliation and forgiveness, a journey which becomes an `exodus' as we move from our self-absorption to the freedom of the children of God and experience the joy of being forgiven and renewed through the gift of God's mercy.
The Lenten journey is not just about the sacrifices we make alone, it is and even more so about discerning where our hearts are directed, towards God or to ourselves. The Lenten journey is a time to reconsider the path we are on in order to find the right path that leads home. And we all know that the road that leads us back to God begins with our coming back to our senses like the prodigal son, accepting our sinful situation, taking the humble but courageous steps of returning to the Father in the Sacrament of reconciliation trusting in his merciful love and forgiveness. And we do this mindful of the fact that it is in life's most painful wounds that God awaits us in his infinite mercy because it is where we are most vulnerable, where we feel most shame that God comes to meet us. God invites each one of his children this season to return to him in
order to rediscover the joy of being loved again (c f. Pope Francis' 2021 Lenten message).
The goal of our Lenten journey is the Cross which ultimately leads to the Easter glory. Our Lenten exercises are therefore not ends in themselves but means to an end - the Resurrection. Indeed, Lent is a time of grace but only to the extent that we listen to God speak to us in the scriptures, the daily events of our lives and in a special way through our brothers and sisters especially the poor and the needy. This is why a meditative reading of the scriptures is highly recommended during this season.
Be that as it may, Lent becomes our annual springtime, a time of renewal and rebirth. It is a special liturgical calendar of the church when we are encouraged and challenged to live intensely this time of spiritual renewal and recommit ourselves to life in Christ, make the most of it and repent of our grave sins and seek reconciliation with God and with the church. The hope therefore is that during these forty days we may experience spiritual rebirth and renewal, reconciliation within our inner selves, with others and above all with God. In Lent, God specially invites us to draw closer to him. It is therefore a time of grace and reconciliation. Grab it.
As always, this season embodies three main attitudes. namely, Fasting, which is learning to change our attitude towards others and all of creation, turning away from the temptation to "devour" everything to satisfy our voracity and being ready to suffer for love, which can fill the emptiness of our hearts. This said, it is however worthy of note that, fasting from food is but one way to embody this process but is not the only one. For some, fasting from pride, greed, envy, anger, lust, sloth and power might be more fruitful. It comes down to dealing well with our appetites in all their forms...a fast is about regulation: minimizing our destructive desires and indulging the desires that bring us closer to light, to love, to God...we also have spiritual appetites. These are the needs we have for God, for community, meaning and purpose for faith, hope and love. If we ignore these appetites, we can forget where we come from and where we are going...A good Lenten question is: What is it we crave? Is the pursuing of it healthy for us and for others? If not, then Lent is the time to fast from our cravings and assert the self-control needed to regulate our appetites" (Richard Leonard, Tablet, March 4, 2023). Prayer, which teaches us to abandon idolatry and the self-sufficiency of our ego, and to acknowledge our need of the Lord and his mercy. Alms-giving, whereby we escape from the insanity of hoarding everything for ourselves in the illusory belief that we can secure a future that does not belong to us. (cf. 2019 Lenten Message of Pope Francis).
St. Basil the Great reminds us that "whatever fruit of charity you may produce, you harvest for yourself, for the grace and reward of good works return to those who do them. You have given to the hungry, and what you gave becomes yours, and it returns to you with interest. As the corn which falls upon the earth yields a reward to the sower, so, in the same way the bread given to a hungry man will bring you much reward hereafter... Now you are going to leave your money behind you here whether you like it or not, but on the other hand you will be taking with you to the Lord the credit obtained for your good work... Come then, scatter abroad your riches, be liberal and magnanimous in giving to the poor. Let it be said of you too: He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor, his righteousness endures forever" (2nd reading of Office of readings of Tuesday Week 17 of the Year; Cf. 2 Cor. 9:1-15 ).
In the same vein, Pope St. Leo the Great enjoins: "If God is love, charity must have no limits because God cannot be confined within any bounds...Although anytime is suitable for the exercise of the virtue of charity, it is more especially urged on us by this present season. Thus, those who long to receive the Lord's Pasch with bodies and souls made holy must strive earnestly to acquire this grace which includes the sum of all the virtues and covers a multitude of sins... Let the alms giver feel happy and secure, for he will have the greatest gain if he has saved the smallest amount for himself' (2nd reading of Office of readings of Tuesday of 4th Wk of Lent).
With Pope Francis, I pray that our Lent this year will be a journey along the path that brings the hope of Christ to all and sundry so that we may be set free from the bondage of decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:21). Let us not allow this season of grace to pass in vain! Let us ask God to help us set out on a path of true conversion. Let us leave behind our selfishness and self-absorption, and turn to Jesus' Pasch. Let us stand beside our brothers and sisters in need, sharing our spiritual and material goods with them. In this way, by concretely welcoming Christ's victory over sin and death into our lives, we will also radiate its transforming power to all of creation (2019 Lenten Message).
And like I said in 2021, "The challenge for each of us during this season of grace is to try more than usual to recognize the evil in our life and turn our back to it. In other words, facing up to my sins and turning away from them. The season therefore invites us to admit that we are sinners and turn to Jesus for salvation. Consequently, in order to have a fruitful Lenten season we need to rediscover the power and peace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation because in it we do what Jesus invites us to do when he said, "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mk. 1:15).
This Lenten season, the church in our country reflects on the theme: "Economic Empowerment and Capacity Strengthening for Self-Reliance and Community Resilience."
Given the harsh economic situation in our country today with well over 70% of the population living below the poverty line with a very high rate of unemployment and underemployment and an equally high rate of inflation with no prospects of adequate job creation by the government. More so, given the rate at which multinational companies are relocating from our country to to neighbouring countries because of harsh and insecure business environment leading to more job losses, the sure way to go is to empower our teaming youth with relevant skills that will not only make them self-employed but also employers of labour in their respective communities and thus give them the dignity that belongs to every human being, mindful of the fact that self-reliance gives dignity.
It goes without saying that giving young people relevant skills is empowering them and in a way helping to secure their communities, because making them self-employed is ipso facto making them stable members of their respective communities and therefore stakeholders. Consequently, in our quest for economic empowerment and capacity strengthening for self-reliance and community resilience, technical education that makes the youth employable should and must be given priority attention. Governments at all levels should partner with non-governmental and faith-based organizations engaged in skills acquisition programmes to enhance their work.
If we give functional (technical) education and relevant skills to our young people, widows, and widowers which will give them gainful employment we would have begun our journey to economic empowerment and capacity strengthening for self-reliance and community resilience. This is why the Archdiocesan Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) is engaged in helping unemployed and underemployed young men and women, especially widows, regardless of creed, ethnic group etc. across our Archdiocese to acquire various skills that will help to equip them with relevant skills to be self-reliant. This has been made possible over the years through the kind and generous support of previous Lenten campaigns of the faithful of our Archdiocese.
Through the Lenten Campaign proceeds our JDPC has trained and graduated thousands of young people, widows and others in various skills. Details of the various skills acquired are contained in the 2024 Lenten campaign brochure prepared by this year's campaign team in conjunction with the Archdiocesan JDPC. The brochure also contains the accounts of the 2023 Lenten campaign
proceeds. We will most certainly do more if you continue to give us your usual kind and generous support. I appeal to you to kindly help us so as to help secure our country through empowering our young people and widows with relevant skills.
As always and with your support we hope to continue with the various skills acquisition programmes, civic education, peace building and conflict prevention and management activities, emergency response by supporting the IDPs with food and non-food items, provision of legal aid to convict prisoners, provision of charity to needy individuals and families and continue with the provision of clean drinking water to needy communities by sinking boreholes. As always, we will appreciate individuals and corporate bodies offering to sink boreholes for needy communities. We are also exploring the possibilities of engaging in farming. We have acquired land in some parts of our archdiocese and hope to acquire more with your kind help and support.
In this vein, I wish to inform you that the Archdiocesan flag-off of the 2024 Lenten Campaign will take place at St. Augustine's Catholic Church, Mahuta, on March 3, at 10 am and the step-down in parishes/pastoral areas/chaplaincies on Sunday, March 10, 2024.
With every good wish for a fruitful Lenten journey, I remain, Yours devotedly in Christ,
Archbishop of Kaduna


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