Dear members of the Whitefriars College family,
One of my earliest memories of growing up as a Catholic was the season of Lent. Not because of some deep understanding of this part of the liturgical calendar as a time for repentance and preparation for the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter, but because we were told that during Lent we had to give up something we really loved. That something always seemed to be lollies! Nothing is more significant for a little boy with a sweet tooth than lollies. So, you can understand my negative view of Lent. Even the thought of all the Easter eggs to come did not lessen the feelings of dread at the thought of going without something so essential to my survival! My other memory of this time was the Project Compassion box that sat on the window sill in the kitchen, beckoning us children to feed it with the money we would normally use to buy those lollies. Suffice to say I don’t think I truly captured nor understood the spirit and significance of this liturgical season.
These days I believe that the season of Lent is a time of change, of preparation and of renewal. It is a time to focus on new beginnings and new life. A time to reflect on how we can become better people, to deepen our relationship with God and a time to grow out of our selfish ways, and to become more caring and thoughtful towards each other.
I love what Pope Francis had to say at the Ash Wednesday Mass he celebrated in Rome a few years ago. He said: “Lent is meant to wake up Christians and help them see that God can give them the strength to change their lives and their surroundings.”
He also talked about Lent as a time to begin again: “…it is possible to realise something new within ourselves and around us simply because God is faithful, he continues to be rich in goodness and mercy, and he is always ready to forgive us and start all over.”
What a liberating idea. To start over, to begin again. I’m sure all of us at times wish that we could start over. Lent gives us the opportunity to start over with God. We know that through his unconditional love of each one of us it is possible to start again with a clean slate. Perhaps too we could apply this idea to those around us. Wouldn’t it be great if could all start over in terms of our relationships with those in our lives whom we always seem to be in conflict? How much of a burden could be lifted from our shoulders if we could forget about past issues we have had with others and move forward to a more positive future? It is possible through forgiveness and reconciliation.
So perhaps we can take this more positive and mature view of what Lent is about and bring a little peace to our own lives and others. Certainly, Lent is a time for fasting, for giving up, but it is also a time to reconcile ourselves with others and with God.
Lent also provides us with some practical advice on how we might go about achieving this lofty aim. Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving are traditionally three ways that we can prepare ourselves for the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter. Recently, our great Pope Francis provided a simple yet powerful understanding of the value and meaning of each of these actions.
Pope Francis calls the Lenten practices of prayer, almsgiving, and fasting a “soothing remedy”. Prayer allows us to eradicate “secret lies” and “self-deception,” and we find “the consolation God offers,” he says. Almsgiving frees us from greed; it helps us regard others as brothers and sisters. “How I would like almsgiving to become a genuine style of life for each of us!” he says. Fasting “weakens our tendency to violence” reviving “our desire to obey God,” who alone can satisfy our hunger.
Perhaps this Lent each of us could take the time to practice each of these virtues in our own way. In doing so we might make our part of the world a better place and perhaps even come a bit closer to God.
Caritas Australia – Project Compassion
Caritas Australia is a Catholic outreach and social justice organisation which is committed to working alongside the most vulnerable and addressing the imbalance of power by including the people affected in the decisions impacting their lives.
Each year during Lent, Caritas Australia holds it appeal – Project Compassion in line with our Lenten practice of Almsgiving. I encourage you to reflect on how you may be able to support the vital work of Caritas in support of those in greatest need in our world.
Mr Mark Murphy