On Wednesday we celebrate the beginning of the holy season of Lent, which has been practiced in its present form in the Church for more than 1700 years. Many of us have grown up with a sense that Ash Wednesday marks the start of a very gloomy and penitential period in our lives, but of course nothing could be further from the truth. It presents for all of us an opportunity to grow in our love of God and one another through the traditional practices of prayer, fasting and charity to the poor and those most in need.
This year our experience of the beautiful Lenten season can be enhanced greatly by making use of Pope Francis’ Message to all Catholics for Lent in 2015. The Pope’s Message is freely available on the internet and would serve as wonderful spiritual reading for each of us. Over the next few weeks I would like to highlight some of the key aspects of Pope Francis’ Message and to apply them more specifically to our own personal lives and the life of our parish community.
Pope Francis reminds us that the season of Lent is a special time of grace for each of us and for the Church as a whole. It is a time when we are granted the opportunity to pray and reflect more deeply on the nature of God’s love for us. Our God is not distant from us, He knows each of us by name and knows all of our joys and sorrows, our struggles and difficulties. Because God’s love for us is always personal, He can never be indifferent to our needs. This should be the real source of our Lenten joy.
By way of contrast, Pope Francis also highlights the fact that one of the marks of our contemporary world is that so many people are hugely selfish and self-centred. Indeed he goes so far as to speak of a globalisation of indifference, where even Catholics manifest an indifference to the presence of God who is personally and lovingly involved in our lives. So too, many of us are sinfully indifferent to the needs of those around us, those both near and far. As we begin this holy season let us take time to reflect on the ways we are challenged by the words of the Pope.
Fr Gerard, CSsR