Lent has begun for Christians around the world. It started on Ash Wednesday, when many of us went to church to receive ashes on the forehead to signify "we are dust and to dust we return."
The practice of receiving ashes dates back to the fifth century and became a widespread Christian practice by the 11th century.
Lent is the season to observe and commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who, we believe, is the Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer.
It is the time to reflect on what it means to be a follower of Christ, an opportune time to repent for our misdeeds and misgivings and to increase awareness and intensity of our prayer, fasting and alms-giving.
It is the time to grow in and strengthen the faith that binds us together and makes all things possible because of our love and devotion to our Lord.
What does it mean to be a Christian? As sinners, we have the ability and capability to be holy. That is, if we allow Christ into our lives.
If we obey His teachings, we become responsible, law-abiding citizens and peace-loving people. We become selfless, mindful of others, our neighbors who benefit from our good deeds, kindness, charity and generosity. We become more aware of and concerned about others, especially the underrepresented, underserved, marginalized, disables, elderly, helpless and hopeless in our midst.
Practicing our faith, we are able to see Christ in them. We try our best to love and care for them the way we want to be loved and cared for.
On the other hand, let's not underestimate the power of prayer in our lives. One thing we can do to counteract negativity, fear and hopelessness in our lives is to pray for ourselves and for others. Prayer can save us from a lot of troubles. Also, prayer leads us to a life of holiness towards God.
When we pray together---when we pray for others who need our prayer---things and people change for the better. We become interconnected and we get closer to God.
As followers of Christ, we also practice alms-giving and fasting. We give of our time, talents and treasures. We share what we have, because we believe that giving is caring.
We give up something or deprive ourselves of something at Lent so that others can have it. That's a sacrifice for others, for God. We just let others have it, instead of ourselves. That is giving. That's an act of love for others and for God because we see Christ in them.
We believe in giving because it is in giving that we receive more blessings and graces from our Almighty God. To share is to give, and to give is to love, and to let others experience our faith.
Praying, fasting, alms-giving, observing the Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments can help us grow in faith, especially during this Lenten season.
-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Sunday, February 14, 2016. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.