Mass celebrated at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne

Sunday 26 February 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the analogy of putting new wine into fresh skins Jesus challenged his followers and us to see the cost in daily life of being followers of Jesus. When Saint Augustine said: “Late have I loved you, beauty so ancient, beauty so new, you were within and I outside”, he highlighted the invitation which God gives us to discover in daily life how he has loved us first. Everything we love and do has to be flavoured and challenged by this.

To put it another way, we cannot relate to Jesus unless we are challenged to a new way of life, which is not taking but giving, as he gave. Traditionally in Lent we focus our eyes on God through prayer. We challenge our bodies through fasting. We make our love all- embracing and more perfect by works of love. Somehow going without things has become unpopular in the modern world. There are even those who suggest that it is inappropriate to pamper the body. I believe we are given a twofold challenge; one of temperance, regulating the body, living, and about dying to self so that we can live for others.

I was amazed to read recently that each year Americans eat over a million tons of chocolate at a cost of millions of dollars. Chocolate comes right throughout life; hot chocolate, chocolate we eat, chocolate we give. The Easter egg meant to be a symbol of the life which comes from Christ is now made often in chocolate to give us a sugar fix after we have been fasting and denying ourselves during Lent.

Chocolate is a good example. You may have your own example. When we eat too much of it we become diabetic and if diabetic we die. Going without chocolate or going without the things that we really enjoy or moderating their use during Lent is a practice of the virtue of temperance.

The great theologian, Saint Thomas Aquinas, said that since we live in a society, bare subsistence is not enough for a truly human life. We all have different needs. Lent and moderation in the things that are our favourites and not needed helps us to make the distinction between necessity and luxury and in trying to balance our desires and needs. We need to adopt Jesus as our standard.

Saint Paul told the Philippians that he emptied himself so that he could embrace his Father’s will and embrace us all as our Saviour on the cross. So too with us, the importance of prayer to elevate our mind, the importance of moderation and temperance in our life every day, not just in Lent, and the particular challenge of fasting and discipline in Lent have as their purpose a new vision of ourself. This is something more than the losing of obesity, so prevalent in our society at present, but a fundamental focus on Christ, moderation so that we can live for others. The paradox about Jesus is that he taught us that dying really enhances living. Training ourself and our lower nature really means that in fact we live more fully because our hearts are made for God and for each other. We are not locked up in self, but move forward to what Jesus has made us to be.

Some of us are chocoholics. We have other ‘aholics’ in our nature. This Lent let us try and discern what is our ‘aholic’, moderate it, focus ourselves on Christ through prayer and then we will begin to see others as Christ sees them and make our contribution to the world. We will in fact serve the Lord in freedom.

+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.

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