On February 26, Christians in Uganda and other parts of the world thronged places of worship to observe Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of 40-day Lent period. Believers marked the occasion by marking their foreheads with ash, which symbolises death and repentance.
It also symbolises penance and the dust from which God made Man. Like the Rev Hillary Jaffu, the priest in-charge of initiation and social services at All Saints’ Cathedral Nakasero in Kampala, said on Wednesday, it is a period Christians accept the Lord’s invitation to repent and accept the good news of salvation. It is a test of willpower and faith.
Christians observe this day in faith and in hope of their Saviour Jesus Christ.
Besides fasting and repentance, the Church encourages believers to give alms to the poor and vulnerable during this time. Although the Bible does not give a direct command on this issue, examples of fasting appear in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
One of the most telling passages in which fasting is mentioned is in Matthew 6:16, where Jesus teaches His disciples the basic principles of Godly living. Jesus’ words imply that fasting will be a regular practice in His followers’ lives.
People fast for a number of reasons, one of which is to prepare for ministry. Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness fasting and praying before He began God’s work. He needed time alone to prepare for what His Father had called Him to do (Matthew 4:1-17; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-14).
Another reason is to seek God’s wisdom. Paul and Barnabas prayed and fasted for the elders of the churches before committing them to the Lord for His service (Acts 14:23).
Thirdly, some Christians fast to repent. After Jonah pronounced judgment against the city of Nineveh, the king covered himself with sackcloth and sat in the dust. He then ordered the people to fast and pray.
Despite biblical examples throughout Scriptures, many Christians are slow to fast. Faithgateway.com lists three main factors that cause believers to be hesitant — fear, ignorance, or rebellion.
All in all, Lent period offers Christians a rare opportunity to reflect on their individual lives, relations with fellow men and to renew their faith in God.
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