My experience of Ash Wednesday this year was one which was filled with joy. Firstly, the number of people who attended our Masses and received their Lenten ashes was truly remarkable, and a living testimony to the level of faith that exists in our parish of Holy Redeemer. This is, of course, not something that we can ever take for granted. But it is a sign for all of us that, if we open our hearts and are receptive to the love of God, then this Holy Season of Lent will bring an abundance of blessings on our whole parish community.
Another reason that Ash Wednesday was so special is that my beloved niece Clare gave birth to her second child in Scotland. In our family we are remarkably lacking in female members! It seems that we only ever have one for each generation! So it was an added joy to know that she had given birth to a baby girl and who is called Erin Marie. Obviously we are all delighted, especially my sister Eileen, who now has a baby girl to spoil! Incidentally, Eileen is constantly thanking the parish for their ongoing prayers for her well-being. Although her major back problems will never be cured, she is experiencing a better quality of life through the use of a spinal block, which eases here pain dramatically. This allows me to dream that she may still one day be able to travel out to visit us here in Cape Town.
So these last few days have helped me to focus on the gift of life. Not that life is forever easy for any of us. But the fact remains that all life is a gift from the God who loves us personally, and is therefore something to be treasured. We are born from the love of God, we live every moment under the loving providence of God, and we will die into the eternal love of God. These are the central truths of our faith. Therefore it becomes imperative for each of us to live each day conscious of the fact that our life, and the life of every single being, is a manifestation of God’s love for all His creation. The season of Lent gives each of us an opportunity to become more aware of this gift and to express our thankfulness through acts of love and prayer.
This call to witness to the gift of life is essential because, in so many different ways, the gift of life is no longer respected, or is taken for granted. The horror of abortion, of world hunger, of complete indifference to the sufferings of so many people in so many parts of the world, is part of the real sin of the world. For this each of us must ask pardon, and do all we can to show that life is something beautiful, and that the life of every person is of the deepest significance.
In a reading from the Book of Deuteronomy we are presented with this challenge: Choose life, so that you may live in the love of the Lord your God, obeying his voice and clinging to Him. During this blessed and holy Season of Lent, may each of us respond to this invitation. Let us choose life, and through the joy that it brings to us, may we make our parish and our world a better place.
Fr Gerard, CSsR