Pastoral letter for Lent 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On Ash Wednesday we begin together our Lenten journey. Through prayer, fasting and works of love we will experience God’s power at Easter, which “dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, and brings mourners joy”. (The Exultet)
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 illustrates the call we receive: “Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting.”
Pope Benedict says (2009): “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.”
This Lent I invite you to join me on a journey to Jesus. We need silence to listen to him. I ask all parishes and schools to use silence before prayer so we can attend to the Lord’s presence. Our church building should be a place of prayer and silence at all times, drawing us to union with the Lord. The great prayer of the Mass will then be supported by our own prayer, adoration, reflection and we will more readily notice what God is asking of us.
The modern world uses dieting to care for one’s body. We as 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 heart 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, and especially children, who do not have enough to eat even in our own society, helps us to grow in the spirit of going to the help of those who suffer. From our fasting, donations to Project Compassion can bring food to subsistence farmers in Uganda, drought relief in India, hope to former ‘street boys’ in Papua New Guinea, and assist youthful Indigenous Australians. 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, 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 be enabled in some small way to be his instruments far beyond what we might expect.
Thank you for coming on the journey, as together we know the light and hope coming from Jesus, which we can give to others.
+Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne
25 February 2009