Mass celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart at Saint Francis’ Church, Melbourne

Ash Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we begin our Lenten journey so that we will experience God’s power at Easter, which “dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, and brings mourners joy”.

Saint Paul said to the Ephesians: “You must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:23-24)

Saint Peter Chrysologus said: “Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting.”

Pope Benedict says in his Lenten Message this year: “Faithful fasting contributes to unity of the whole person, body and soul, helping to avoid sin and grow in intimacy with the Lord … it is an aid to open our eyes to the situation in which so many of our brothers and sisters live.”

I extend to you, dear friends, a warm invitation to make with me a pilgrimage to Jesus. Lent is a time when we pray more fervently and I ask you to be silent before prayer and to foster in our church buildings the silence, which leaves other communications outside and focuses our attention on the Lord.

Here at Saint Patrick’s the great prayer of the Mass, personal prayer, adoration and reflection will lead us to know what God is asking.

The modern world uses dieting to care for one’s body. We Christians use fasting to focus our attention on prayer and to open our lives to God’s plan. Fasting mortifies our selfishness and opens our hearts to love of God and neighbour. We listen to Jesus and are nourished by his saving Word, so that we hunger and thirst for God.

This year the insecurity of families in our society and overseas challenges us through Project Compassion and other means to reach out to those who suffer. Looking at God, denying ourselves, helps us to make a more complete gift of self to God, so that in realising our own weakness and our sin, we are able to see God’s vision of the world and its people and what we can do for others in our community.

As we hunger and thirst for God, we humbly use prayer and fasting to focus on God and on what we can do for others. God will be at the centre of our lives and we will become his instruments far beyond what we might expect. Prayer, fasting, works of love, the journey to authentic Christian living, may we make it together knowing that Jesus loves us and invites us warmly.

+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.

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