Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
ON 5 March 2014, Ash Wednesday, we
undertake a path of conversion as individuals and as a community, leading to
Easter Sunday, preparing to live and proclaim the joy of the Risen Christ.
Prayer, fasting and works of love.
Prayer is the lifeblood of our
relationship with God. We meet Jesus and listen to him speaking in our hearts.
We are encouraged to keep our Church as our holy place for prayer and silence,
and to meet for prayer more regularly during Lent, and sanctify each day by our
prayer at home.
Attendance at Mass, Eucharistic
Adoration, reflection on the Scriptures and personal prayer nourish this
relationship from which springs our relationship with others.
Fasting sharpens our vision and our
readiness in mind and heart to love God and others, rather than ourselves. As a
community we fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. On
other days, discipline in eating and drinking trains us for our journey with
Christ, who spent 40 days in the desert in prayer and penance.
Works of love are the fruit of prayer and
penance. Pope Francis reminds us that though Jesus was rich, for our sake he
became poor. When Jesus was baptised by John, he did so not because he was in
need of repentance or conversion; he did it to be among people who needed
forgiveness and to take upon himself the burden of our sins.
The Pope encourages us to acquire a new
awareness of those who are in destitution—poverty without faith or hope. He
challenges us to be alert in binding the wounds of those who suffer material destitution—lacking basic rights, food, water and work; moral destitution—maybe a brother or sister is in the thrall of alcohol, drugs,
gambling, pornography, or no longer sees meaning in life; or spiritual
destitution—which we experience when we turn
away from God and reject his love. The Gospel is the antidote to destitution.
We are called to proclaim the liberating news that forgiveness for sins is
possible, because God freely loves us at all times, and asks us to be joyous heralds
of his mercy and hope.
Parishes, communities and individuals
might consider what can be done to walk with people in their suffering, whether
through Project Compassion, Caritas, or by personal example. This shows the
logic of love and the responsibility that springs from taking on the yoke of
Christ. We realise that in giving we receive.
May this Lent be a time of transforming
prayer and challenge, of love and joy in the Gospel and of gifted Christian
outreach to our sisters and brothers who, like us, are encircled with the
infinite love and compassion of God.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Photo by Fiona Basile