Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Asian Tsunami on Boxing Day has irrevocably changed the lives of many of our Asian neighbours. Innocent people and whole communities have disappeared. Suffering has struck families in Asia and relatives in Melbourne. For the orphaned, the bereaved, the injured and the jobless, life will never be the same.
We have witnessed at the same time a second type of tsunami, an enormous ‘wave’ of solidarity from the concerned world. As never before, nations have cooperated at all levels to help the afflicted and feed the starving. In Melbourne, parishes, communities and individuals have been deep in prayer and practical and financial support for those who have had their livelihood destroyed. This magnificent co-operation has given us all hope, as we lay aside indifference, and reach out to our brothers and sisters whom we see as part of us.
The joyful season of Lent renews us in mind and heart and forces us to come to terms with the ‘tsunami’ of sin and evil in our lives. We know sin dislocates us from God, from ourselves and from others since “sin is an offence against God – “against you, you alone have I sinned, what is evil in your sight I have done” Psalm 51:V4 (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1850)”.
The entire season of Lent is joyful because it prepares us to celebrate the Death and Resurrection of Jesus at Easter. During the Easter Proclamation of the Exultet we will hear again the saving message “This is the night when Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement, are restored to grace and grow together in holiness”. This is the cause of our joy.
When we sin, we plot in our heart and send out a wave of injustice and wickedness that can be devastating to others. That is why we need to admit honestly “I am a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness” and take the first step of conversion.
By making such an act of contrition and confessing our actual sins, we open ourselves to the all-conquering ‘tsunami’ of God’s mercy in Jesus Christ.
God’s mercy destroys sin and offers us the inner grace to correct by repentance the devastation our sins have caused in others.
“In theory, repentance is a radical refocussing of our whole life, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil” (Catechism
Conversion and Healing
The place where this conversion touches our life is the beautiful sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (Confession). Jesus acts through his priest to bring healing and comfort to our soul in a way that we can understand, and makes us emerge, full of hope and joy.
The Sacrament of Peace
I encourage all Catholics to return to the Sacrament this Lent. I have asked priests to be available so that you will know the compassion of Christ in your life and be instruments of healing and help to others.
The ordinary way of the forgiveness of sins is individual Confession. In some places a common preparation followed by individual Confessions will be possible, and this too will be encouraged.
Some parishes may choose to celebrate a common prayer service as a preparation for the sacrament. If this is done, it is to be made clear that it does not contain the forgiveness of sins.
The Church wishes us to experience individual forgiveness so that the powerful compassion of Christ will be transforming and life-giving in our lives.
The Year of the Eucharist
The destruction of the ‘tsunami’ of sin is countered by the power of the Eucharist. Jesus wishes us this year to know his nearness throughout the devout celebration of Mass according to the mind of the Church, and through prayer and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. He is the Lord who remains with us in our life and sends us out to be his witnesses.
“The seeds of disunity, which daily experience shows to be so deeply rooted in humanity as a result of sin, are countered by the unifying power of the body of Christ. By building up the Church, the Eucharist creates human community”. ( John Paul II – Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 24).
Throughout this season a search for God continues through prayer, fasting, and works of love. More regular sharing in the Mass, pondering the presence of Christ in Eucharistic Adoration, the Way of the Cross and other prayer leads us to the Easter mysteries of our faith.
By fasting and self-denial we can contribute to Project Compassion and continue the magnificent response of giving to others, which has begun already this year in the Tsunami Appeal for Caritas. Works of love, giving time to others, helping them, pausing to reflect - enable us to see that we wish our God to change us and allow us to show to the world the reason for the hope that is in us - reaching out to others helping them to encounter the Gospel.
May Lent be a time when the Lord’s constant presence inspires us to be for others and “to see others as part of me”, as Pope John Paul ll has invited the Church.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.