We begin our journey through the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday which falls on 6 March this year, and end this journey on Holy Saturday, 20 April 2019 – a day before Easter. It is going to be an uphill climb for six and a half weeks. It is a preparation for Easter, and an invitation to take up with vigor, the three traditional practices of Lent – Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Each year the season of Lent gives us an opportunity to prepare ourselves to celebrate the Paschal Mystery – Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ with renewed mind, body, soul and spirit.
My love for the season of Lent started 35 years ago. Since then, I have made it a point to make this season a time for soul-searching, prayer, reflection and penance. Every Lent helps me to have a better understanding of my faith, to persevere in self-discipline and self-improvement and procure a deeper appreciation for the season. Today, as a priest, I try my best to assist my parishioners to better observe Lent and make the journey towards Easter a reverent and meaningful one. During this time of preparation, I hope that they will consciously focus on their faith life, their shortcomings and sinfulness, which will ultimately lead them to a new beginning of life in Christ at Easter.
However, Lent can sometimes become a routine over the years. We may go through the motions of Lent doing the same old things and living in our former way of life, causing us to neglect the essential aspects of the Lenten season. It is important then to remember that while we undertake a journey of preparation, our Lenten practice should work on a personal as well as communal conversion. When we fail to live as children of God and when we behave in a hurtful way towards others, then we may not be able to celebrate Easter meaningfully.
The Holy Father has chosen the theme “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God” (Rom 8:19) for Lent this year. According to Pope Francis, “All creation is called, with us, to go forth from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.” He said that “Lent is a sacramental sign of this conversion.” The Pope wants us not to water down this season of grace, but to live faithfully as children of God.
The Pope highlights that the season of Lent should be a time to “welcome Christ’s victory over sin and death into our lives”, and attract “its transforming power to all of creation.” The division between God, man and creation caused by sin is to be repaired through our traditional Lenten practices – fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Our Holy Father says that in fasting we learn “to change our attitude towards others and all of creation, turning away from the temptation to ‘devour’ everything to satisfy our voracity and being ready to suffer for love, which can fill the emptiness of our hearts.” Our prayers lead us to “abandon idolatry and self-sufficiency of our ego.” Through almsgiving, “we escape from the insanity of hoarding everything for ourselves in the illusory belief that we can secure a future that does not belong to us.”
“May our Lent this year be a journey along that same path, bringing the hope of Christ also to creation,” the Holy Father said. In this path to Easter, he demands that “we renew our faces and hearts as Christians through repentance, conversion and forgiveness”. We take every effort for personal and communal conversion by leaving behind all our selfishness and self-absorption and turn to Jesus’ Paschal Mystery. Let us stand firmly beside our neighbours who are in need and share our spiritual and material goods with them. May the season of Lent renew, refresh and empower us to go about the work of Christ.
HAVE A BLESSED LENT!
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy