The Final Word
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
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
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
† Denis J Hart
Archbishop of Melbourne