The Final Word

The Final Word

March 2018

March 2018 

Our Lenten journey for 2018 is already a few weeks old. How is your Lenten journey going?

Each year the Church continues to remind us that, after his baptism in the Jordan, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert, where after fasting for 40 days and nights he was tempted by the devil.

As we all know, any pilgrimage into the desert—especially the Australian outback—is no simple matter. There are hazards, privations and loneliness; uncertainties and extreme weather conditions. Because there are perils lurking in the desert, there are rules for those who dare set foot there, rules to be followed with the utmost seriousness: Do not go it alone; take water, and lots of it; carry a compass; and wear clothes that will accommodate the changing climate. Those who follow the rules and those who don’t soon discover that the desert is no place for joking around. It is all too easy to lose one’s way.

We all know how easy it is to ‘lose one’s way’ in the ordinary struggles and ups and downs of our lives in contemporary Australian church and society.
Lent is our special time each year when the Church calls us to take serious steps not to ‘lose our way’ on the pilgrimage of faith. Our annual celebration of Lent is a precious time for each of us to pray, fast and reflect on the direction of our lives, as we journey towards Easter.

If we take Lent seriously, this means facing up to who we really are and how we treat other people. It also means honestly asking ourselves about our relationship with the Lord Jesus. Are we really seriously living the gospel’s demanding call in our parishes, communities and personal lives? It is especially a time when we have the courage to confess our sins in the Sacrament of Penance.

Each Lent we also resolve to be merciful and much more attentive to the needs of others—especially the poor, neglected and unwanted people on the margins of society who are, in truth, the living presence of Christ.

As Pope Francis never tires of reminding us, we are called to be merciful. And showing mercy isn’t easy. Our egos get in the way. We much prefer revenge—‘getting even’ or making other people pay for the wrongs committed against us.

So, yes, there is a risk involved in taking the Lenten pilgrimage! For from a spiritual perspective, the ‘desert’ is that place we enter to be reminded of the One who is truly essential in our lives, where we stand before God with no false veneer, makeup, designer labels or pretence.

And each of us has our own personal ‘deserts’. There is the desert of illness, of unemployment, of anxiety, of conflict and of doubt; the wilderness of grieving the loss of a spouse or a child, or getting back on one’s feet after bewildering setbacks.

Above all, Lent reminds us that though any desert can shake us to our bones, God will never abandon us. Each Lent, God speaks to us, like he did to the Hebrew people wandering in the desert long ago.

Run from fakes and forgeries. Do not be fooled into believing there is anything in this world that can give you life. I alone give life, and I give it to you fully. I alone set you free. Cling to me and I will care for you. Trust in me and you will find freedom.

That is our holy task in these 40 days of voluntary ‘desert’ living this Lent.

† Denis J Hart
Archbishop of Melbourne




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