Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As the middle of Lent approaches the Readings today throw sharply into relief our need of purification and cleansing. In human life cleansing means that we are facing an experience, which leaves us open to be changed. Yet with each cleansing comes an opportunity and a challenge.
The Readings very appropriately stress out for us today, “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no gods except me.” The loving response of the community of the faithful, “Lord, you have the words of everlasting life”, remind us that God’s programme for us is right, is clear and gives light to the eyes. That to have a healthy reverence and fear of God helps us to shape our lives along his path.
Yet there can be many cleansings in our life. A time of sickness, a change of work, an experience which causes us to refocus on our life, a personal loss; all challenges to rethink our goals.
Lent, indeed, is a period of six weeks in which we seek to refocus our lives, to pick them up and carry them along God’s way, so that without fear we can come to reassess our life.
Saint Paul reminded the Corinthians that Jesus is the power and wisdom of God. Lent above all is the time when we allow God’s Word to wash over us with its truth, to uncover our sinfulness, to fill us with a resolve to do better and be cleansed anew as at baptism.
The horrible spectre of manmade and natural disasters can often stimulate people to come together and overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. A common Australian experience of gallantry in the time of bushfire or large rail or other accidents gives us confidence in the human spirit. So too the season of Lent helps us to take stock of what are the things by which we live.
Indeed, the Mass today picks out the value of prayer, fasting and works of mercy for overcoming sin and helps us to have a new purpose to move forward when we are discouraged by our weakness.
What perhaps is the most telling thing about our life is that Jesus is the great seer and lover of human nature. He knows what is in people and yet, sinners though we are, he has given himself for us.
We might ask ourselves whether we are really living by the truth of God’s Word or are we so impervious to the Scriptures, to God’s invitation, that it is just all too hard and we let it wash right over us. On the other hand, if our consciences are so deadened that we cannot respond, let us remember that we must live by the truth and by God’s Word. Conscience rightly formed is only a proximate way by which we know God’s will for us and are able to apply in day-to-day living its invitations and challenges.
The words of the Fiftieth Psalm, “Indeed you love truth in the heart, then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom”, are a reminder that we ought never forget that the only yardstick that is permanent is that which we meet in facing our God. As Jesus went for forty days into the desert, so too he invites us to be one with him and the Father in facing our lives in truth, in confessing our sins in the wonderful Sacrament of Reconciliation, and in believing in Jesus, risen, coming by integrity of life to eternal life and peace.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.