The Metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama has advised Christians to engage in charity and almsgiving during the Lent season.
The prelate gave the advice in an interview with NAN in Abuja, as Christians mark the Ash Wednesday, which signifies the beginning of the 40-day fasting.
Catholics observe the period beginning with the application of ashes on the forehead, a reminder that “from ash we came and from ash we will return’’.
“The life of a Christian would be complete only when we show love, support and share with the poor in the society.
“What we find in our society today is sadly the reality of ‘blind guides’,” he said.
The archbishop explained that some religious men and women who pose as ministers of God, “are ignorant about what true religion is”.
“There are some leaders who occupy big positions of responsibility today but lack the disposition to make such offices function properly.
“Some fight and even kill to occupy such offices, but are only guided by their quest for material possessions and could be regarded as blind guides,” Kaigama said.
He said Nigerians, including leaders, must be upright and follow the teachings of the Holy Books at all times.
“Leaders are challenged to expunge hypocrisy and deception, to bear good fruits.
“Our nation would achieve greater progress when we truly listen to one another in mutual respect.
“Government leaders must listen to its citizens, politicians must listen to the people they represent, employees must listen to their employers, the north to the south, one religious adherent to the other.
“This is the path to enduring peace, greater solidarity and harmony in our society.
“And the best way to resolve problems such as the lingering fuel scarcity in the nation and the ASUU one-month warning strike to press home her demands from the Government.”
The archbishop said that the current war between Russia and Ukraine was a failure in human compassion and the consequence of failure to listen to the voice of reason.
Kaigama said the Pope Francis had called for prayers and fasting on Ash Wednesday for peace across the world.
“Our lives as Christians will only be meaningful when we imbibe the spirit of charity, love and share what we have with the less privileged ones.
“As Christians,we have important roles to play toward making the society beautiful and a better place for all.
“Jesus teaches us to love others as we love ourselves; He urges us to always give so that we can also receive.
“I charge those who call themselves true Christians to learn to show love, because life is meaningless without sharing,’’ he said.
The prelate, therefore, urged Christians to live exemplary lifestyles worthy of emulation by others, adding that such would make the world a better place.
Also, His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, former Archbishop of Abuja Dioceses, told NAN that the fasting must be accompanied by prayers.
He added that Christians must eschew hatred and learn to forgive at all times, as “hatred and unforgiveness could hinder answers to prayers”.
According to him, fasting releases God’s supernatural power that causes breakthroughs.
He also spoke on the significance of fasting and prayers.
“Fasting causes us to rely on God, it helps us to be filled with the fruit of the Spirit, makes us to bypass the emotions of our flesh, and opens our heart to hear God’s voice.
“It renews our appreciation for God and His blessings, gives power to our prayers, creates an environment for miracles, it is soul-cleansing, and gives us a desire for God,” Onaiyekan said.
He said “Christians should remember that fasting without prayer and reading the Word is nothing but hunger strike.
“Fasting is spiritual discipline to achieve intimacy with God.”
He however advised the sick, aged and children may not compulsorily fast to avoid complications.
Also, the Parish Priest, Holy Cross Catholic Church Gwarinpa, who is also the Vicar for Pastoral Affairs, Fr. Rowland Nwakpuda, said that fasting could be viewed as both a physical health and faith-based decision.
“When we fast, we meditate; this helps us cleanse ourselves, allowing us to receive that higher power into us once again,” he said.
He advised Christians to fast according to the scriptures, without hypocrisy. While fasting, we should pray with all seriousness, otherwise we might just be on hunger strike.
“We must be connected to God in the spirit and believe that He answers prayers.
“It makes us grow closer to God to be filled with the fruit of the spirit; when we fast, there is almost nothing distracting us from hearing God’s voice,” he added.
Similarly, Rev. Fr Peters Danladi, the Chaplain of St Vincent de Paul Hospital Kubwa in Abuja, said fasting was not to impress God, but strengthen the faith of the believers.
“ Through fasting, Christian believers are empowered and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit in their daily relationship with the Lord,” he said.
Danladi added that fasting foster personal discipline and was a demonstration of one’s scriptural obedience.