'What are you giving up?'
We all know Lent is approaching when we
start to hear this question!This Lent let us all remember that Jesus challenges us personally in three special areas: prayer, fasting and
This Lent I recommend we all make some simple commitments.
Prayer: This Lent
how can each of us strengthen our relationship with Christ? What will help us get to know the Lord
One simple suggestion is to spend an extra 15 minutes at night slowly reading, praying and reflecting on the daily Gospel. It isn’t a great
sacrifice but it really helps. Pope Francis reminds us that 'the Word is a gift'—he stresses prayer, fasting and
Another simple practice is for each of
us to seek forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance. I encourage you all to make a good confession
before Easter, even if it has been a long time. Rightly, the Pope says, 'Sin
In the early Church, they called
confession the 'second conversion in tears'. St Peter wept in sorrow after denying Jesus and Christ, in his mercy, spoke to him the tender words of his pardon and peace. In the sacrament, we too can hear these words
of compassion for our sins.
And then there is Fasting! As we make our small acts of fasting and 'give up' food, drink or
whatever, let us never forget it isn’t all about what we do individually.
Giving something up for Lent is not an
end in itself. It should
readily redirect our attention from ourselves toward others.
St Augustine commenting on fasting
and mortification once said, 'Don’t
believe that fasting suffices. Fasting
punishes you but it does not restore your brother. How many poor people could be nourished by
the meal you did not take today?'
St Augustine reflects the words
Isaiah wrote centuries earlier: 'Is not
this the sort of fasting that pleases me—to share your bread with the
Self-denial frees our mind and our
resources. What money or time we do not
spend on ourselves, we need to spend for the benefit of others.
Almsgiving: And that
is the heart of the issue—giving something up during Lent requires us
not only to think about the needs of others but to do something to meet
While both prayer and fasting could be
seen as being all about us, almsgiving is oriented toward the good of
others. Who can you help this Lent?
Pope Francis constantly emphasises the connection between self-denial and charitable outreach. Lent rescues us from ourselves and frees us
to think about others, particularly those who suffer from poverty. Supporting the wonderful work of Caritas by
contributing to Project Compassion is one great way.
Another small act of almsgiving could
be giving people some of our valuable time. Pope Francis says, 'The other
person is a gift; urging us to welcome and love life, especially when it is
weak and vulnerable.'
Consider visiting and spending some
real quality time with people who are sick or elderly in your parish. Or reach out to some recently arrived
refugees in your area by your welcoming presence with them. Our increasingly fearful, polarised and
selfish world desperately needs to see the witness of Catholics who welcome the
This Lent I pray and hope
that your Lenten season is filled with many spiritual gifts.
May all of us here in the Archdiocese
of Melbourne, pray, fast and give alms. May we never forget
to ask ourselves: 'How can I
share with my neighbours in need?'.
† Denis J Hart
Archbishop of Melbourne