• Friday, April 19, 2024
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Beyond Lent: Managing the challenge of compartmentalisation


 Easter comes up on Sunday, but the Lenten period is technically over because we are now in the Holy Week – the remembrance of the suffering, humiliation, crucifixion and the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. In connection with this season, the Christian has a two-pronged agenda: to learn the lessons from the route to Calvary [love, forgiveness, perseverance, courage, compassion] and to benefit from the resurrection of Christ, which makes the way for our own final resurrection. The Lenten period which prepares us for this holy season is a period of prayers, almsgiving and abstinence, done with a genuine appreciation of their spiritual significance, which prepares us to rise with Christ on Easter.

But Lent and all it stands for should not end with the 40 days before Easter; we must continue to be Christians and this we can only do by living Christ-like lives at all times. And while Christ declares that the greatest law is the love of God and man, the greatest love is actually the love of man because you cannot love God whom you have not seen if you do not love the man whom you can see. So, as Pope Francis I enjoined us, we must show compassion to the ‘poorest, the weakest, the least important, those Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison’. But we must do that always, not only during Lent or on Sundays. That is the only way to overcome the challenge of compartmentalisation.

In his 2013 Pastoral Letter, Paulinus Ezeokafor, the Catholic Bishop of Awka, lamented the inadequate understanding of the Christian faith which in turn gives rise to compartmentalisation. Churches are filled with worshippers and are beehives of activities 24/7. All-night vigils and crusades go on with incredible frequency and people have to contend with loudspeakers as different churches and men of God conduct all-night religious activities. People easily use Christian-inspired slogans: to God be the glory; it is well; God is in control; glory be to Jesus. Indeed, Christianity is in the very air we breathe. Solemn prayers have given way to the shouting type as if God were deaf or asleep. But this excessive religiosity cannot be interpreted as evidencing our faith because of a woefully deficient understanding of what Christianity is all about. Some of us see the Christian faith as an adherence to a set of ideas or beliefs on the basis of authority rather than a personal commitment in response to God’s invitation to a transforming personal relationship with Him in his church. This omission of the personal dimension and its transformational challenge is what leads to the dangerous trend of compartmentalisation.

People organise their lives as if there are compartments, that is, separate rooms for religious practices, for business, for politics, for relationship with spouse, etc. So, when they enter the room for religious practice, they meticulously follow all the rituals, midnight prayers, dry fasting, masses, etc. When they leave the room for religion and enter the room for business or politics, they operate by standards that are diametrically opposed to the values enjoined on them by their Christian faith: violence, fraud, deceit, bare-faced lies, murder [physically and verbally] and what have you. Embarrassingly, many do not see the contradictions that are inherent in this portfolio approach to life and living. Just as Jesus chastised the Pharisees who wash the outside of the cup while leaving the inside full of extortion and intemperance, compartmentalised Christians go the extra mile to fulfil religious rituals but do not open themselves to the deeper challenges of their faith [See: This is My Son, The Beloved by P. C. Ezeokafor, 2013].

Christian life, and indeed life in general, is not a portfolio of values and attitudes which we juggle and manage to attain an optimal outcome at the end. The same set of values cuts across all aspects of our life and our Christian teachings and values should apply to our business, domestic, social and political lives. There should not be compartments. There should not be portfolios. The Christian virtues of love, peace, forbearance, compassion and forgiveness should apply across board, at all occasions and at all times.

As we are admonished in The Word Among Us [22/3/13], ‘People may not believe you if all they hear are your words. They may not believe you if all they know is your reputation as a faithful attendee at Mass. But they will believe you if they experience the love of Christ flowing from your words, your actions and attitudes.’ This should not be only during Lent or when you are in church or when the ‘spirit of religion’ is upon you. It should be at all times and every occasion. That is the way to conquer the challenge of compartmentalisation; that is the way to live Christ-like lives during Lent and beyond. I wish all Christians a fulfilling Holy Week and may the light of the risen Christ which shall shine forth on Easter Sunday help us to live decompartmentalised Christian lives. 



Muo is a lecturer and management consultant in the department of business administration, Olabisi Onabanjo 

University, Ago-Iwoye

[email protected]


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