The season of Lent is upon us once more. The Church desires that each of us grows spiritually and experiences a reawakening of our relationship with God during the 40 days of Lent, which culminate at Easter with the Lord’s Passion, death and Resurrection.
Just as our Saviour Jesus spent 40 days in the desert to prepare for his ministry, so we too now embark on a ‘desert’ experience to prepare ourselves for the renewal of Easter.
Many people, when they retire, go on car trips around our vast country to finally see it in all its beauty and vastness. If you have ever travelled around our great Southern continent, you would have seen the beauty and challenge of our desert spaces. Your car doesn’t want to break down without water!
For the desert is a stark place where what is essential (food, clothing, shelter) is made abundantly clear. Everything about life is reduced to its most basic needs: How will I live? What will I eat?
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 pretence. It is that place where we confront ourselves with no other support than God.
That is why our Catholic faith places great emphasis in this holy season on repentance and conversion. Conversion means letting God draw us close, leaving behind those sins, attitudes, perspectives, false gods, false beliefs and hurts that have obscured life’s true purpose. Conversion unmasks the deceit of temptation and the folly of sin, and reveals the goodness of God. It leads to spiritual growth and peace and it is a lifelong process.
However, the purpose of Lent is not to somehow make us feel disheartened or uncomfortable in the way we live out our faith. We sincerely take a good look at ourselves not to wallow in our sins!
Rather, we are called to examine our consciences so as to better serve our brothers and sisters all around us. All too often, unknown to ourselves, we can little by little become self-centred and lapse into what Pope Francis calls ‘indifference to others’.
Our baptism into the Body of Christ does not allow us to pass by on the other side and so ignore the needs and sufferings of those around us. So the traditional penitential nature of Lent is not intended to punish us, but to remind us of our need for God’s grace and of our obligation to put others before ourselves. Awareness of the presence of God surrounding us and of the need to engage in practical acts of charity will ensure that we grow in God’s grace and so become ever more Christ-like in this holy season now beginning. I especially ask you to support Caritas Australia’s annual Lenten Project Compassion as one marvellous way to do just that.
This Lent, may we all spend more time in prayer. In those quiet moments each day let’s ask ourselves some simple questions: What’s in the way? What gets in the way of knowing we are God’s beloved children? What gets in the way of us seeing others as persons made in the image of God? What gets in the way of being all that God created us to be? What gets in the way of our best dreams for ourselves and the world we share?
My prayer for each of us this Lent is that we all turn toward to God, grow in hope, and discover the depths and the heights of God’s mercy.