Redemption is actually not a religious term. The act of redeeming someone goes back to ancient times. It was the practice of buying back a servant or loved one who had been kidnapped. This payment was the ransom.
Redemption is needed when someone or something was taken. Today, this is applicable to our lives in a real way. What has been taken from us? What have we lost?
If you are like most Americans, you are too busy. Our calendars are filled with responsibilities regarding our careers and activities for the family. So many people explain that they cannot attend worship services or pray because they are simply out of time. In the time they do have, they are wiped out.
Many Americans also question the meaning or purpose of their lives. According to Lifeway Research, 63 percent of Americans wonder if their life can have more meaning on a regular basis. The seemingly infinite human “To Do List” might fill our time, but it does not satisfy the human heart.
The answer to redeeming America’s business and doubts about purpose actually resides in a meaningful Lent. Once a year, the church doubles down on what it means to be a follower of Jesus. What does it mean to be in a relationship with God, and how does one grow in it? After honest reflection, most people would admit they do not focus enough on the big questions that revolve around God and life.
Questions like, is there a God? Can we know God? Does God care about me? Does God interact with human beings? What happens when we die?
Lent can redeem us because it forces us to give space to what is most important. Forty days can truly change us if we commit. That is a critical key to redemption: commitment. This is summarized by the famous invitation of Jesus to his followers: “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19). God constantly invites us to a relationship with him, but things only begin to change when we commit.
Churches all over the nation have a commitment in mind. They offer more Masses, other services, and different opportunities for people to grow in their faith by committing to something so simple in Lent: prayer. Several studies have shown that prayer brings about many practical benefits.
A study from Columbia University suggests that the spiritual practice of meditation actually strengthens the brain’s cortex. This study posits that prayer helps guard against many illnesses and fights tendencies toward depression. Prayer can literally protect us against feelings of loneliness and purposelessness because it unites us with the God of love. Oregon State University found that prayer leads to less addiction, and it helps people regulate their emotions.
In our world today, there are so many proposed answers to a person’s lost sense of self and purpose. Exercise, diet, sports, leisure — the list goes on and on. These are proposed as possible remedies for human heartache. The answer, however, is so simple that it is overlooked. A focus on the supernatural, on God, is the best way for a person to be placed in contact with the source of it all and experience true loving acceptance and a sense of relationship.
One of the longest research studies on record was conducted by Harvard University. It has made headlines in and out of a variety of newsrooms recently. It is a multigenerational study on happiness. More than 700 males were chosen for this study, including their children and grandchildren. The takeaway was astounding. The No. 1 leading cause of happiness was meaningful relationships.
We know happiness is immaterial; it is not a physical thing in the universe. That is why money cannot buy happiness. That is why you cannot purchase happiness on Amazon. God is also immaterial, for if God were material, He would have a beginning. Instead, He is the source of the universe, existing outside of it.
God is also a relationship: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If the scientifically proven, No. 1 leading cause of happiness is relationships, and God is a relationship, it follows that we must lean on God if we desire our lives to be restored to the fullness they were made for.
So this Lent, focus on prayer. It could change your life and lead you to true happiness. Let us commit to focusing on God so we can receive Jesus, the true Ransom, at the end of these 40 days. That, and only that, can lead to a life restored and an America redeemed.
Thomas Griffin teaches in the Religion Department at a Catholic high school and lives on Long Island with his wife and son. He has a master’s degree in theology and is currently a masters candidate in philosophy. Follow his latest content at EmptyTombProject.org
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