I wonder if I am the only person who is surprised to realise that on Wednesday we move into the Holy Season of Lent. It feels to me that we have only just concluded our Christmas celebrations and already we are confronted with a whole new season of prayer and spirituality. Still, time marches on and time is always a time of grace, so we are now being invited to focus our minds and hearts on the great saving mysteries of Jesus’ journey to death and to the glory of the Resurrection. It was a journey of immense love for Jesus, and it was a saving journey for all of humanity. So now, as we enter into this season of Lent, we are invited to walk with Jesus on his journey, and to make our own spiritual journey through Lent also a journey of love.
There will be many events in the parish over the coming weeks to help us on our spiritual path through Lent. We begin on Wednesday with the blessing and distribution of ashes. We will also, as in past years, offer a special Lenten Novena over the next weeks. This year I have decided that the theme of our Lenten Novena will that of Mercy. This is entirely appropriate in the Year of Mercy promulgated by Pope Francis. So for the six weeks of the Lenten Novena we will focus on various aspects of Mercy, beginning of course with the Mercy of God which shapes the life of each of us. We will also reflect on the call that we have each received, to be signs of the Mercy of God in the world today: in our homes, in the parish and to all we meet.
Lent is for each of us a moment of grace and to recognise the real gift of our faith. It is a time when we are called to reflect more deeply on the love of God and on what God is asking of us. In the Season of Lent most of us try to give practical expression to this desire for God by taking on some Lenten practices and sacrifices. This is a good thing, and an important sign that we are aware of being in a very special period of grace.
But it is important for us to recognise that Lent is much more than a period of penance and sacrifice. It is also a time when we are invited to give positive expression to our desire to put on the mind and heart of Christ. The Year of Mercy is a wonderful opportunity for each of us as individuals, as families and as a parish, to give practical expression to our Christian vocation to be the visible Mercy of God in the world today.
It is obvious to all of us that we are living in an age of strife and intolerance. We are living in an age of suffering, where the poor and the weakest are largely left abandoned by the powers of the world. We cannot, as Christians, be unconcerned about this. We have to offer practical witness that the world simply does not need to be like this. That is why the call to mercy is of such significance for each and every one of us. Let us be guided and shaped by the One who is Mercy, Our Most Holy Redeemer.
Fr Gerard, CSsR