The period of 40 days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving will begin on Ash Wednesday. These 40 days, if well lived and pondered, serve not only as spiritual exercise in preparation for the new life of Easter, but have far-reaching moral and social consequences for our nation.
The three disciplines of Lent must be seen not as ends in themselves but means to a greater end. The greater end is the new life of personal, philosophical and social transformation.
Trinidad and Tobago is in need of new life whereby we can reset what being human is and what being a society means and could mean. These shifts in thinking would lead to much-needed personal and social transformation.
We are in need of new insights as to what does it mean to be a society. Have we pondered long enough the question, “What does it mean to be an individual in a society such as ours?” Have we pondered the question, “What does being society mean?” These are questions not only for university campuses, but for the SEA syllabus as well as for every right-thinking citizen.
The practices of fasting and almsgiving are practical tools that help us ponder the type of aforementioned questions that are required for personal, social and philosophical transformation. If the meaning of Lenten practices is reflected upon in our schools, parishes, workplaces and boardrooms, as well as looked at retrospectively, they could speak a simple truth to us: we could do without for the sake of others not only for 40 days but throughout the year.
Lenten practices ought to help us revisit our priorities and assumptions; they challenge the culture that worships instant gratification and abundance much to the detriment of the whole.
Deconstructed from a religious context, fasting is delayed gratification and almsgiving is the redistribution of wealth by personal choice. These are capacities that must be developed which are in turn indispensable for healing of a sick society.
Fasting and almsgiving tell us that living with less for the sake of new life is not impossible. This truth hits at the heart of the greed and corruption at all levels of our society.
Fasting and almsgiving challenge instant gratification and tightfistedness. The former is one of the causes of both white-collar crime and blue-collar crime. Corruption and greed in order to buy another luxury vehicle and/or apartment, and holding a gun to someone’s head in a robbery in order to buy a pair of brands for a Carnival fete are both rooted in an inability to delay gratification.
Almsgiving tells us that giving to the other is possible all through the year and that real needs are not limited to Lent. Almsgiving reminds us that we can live without and still live.
Both fasting and almsgiving and the values they represent are essential practices if we are to challenge the culture of instant gratification and the amassing abundance that is suffocating our society.