On Wednesday we begin the season of Lent with the sprinkling of Ashes. For six weeks we journey to Easter. We can get so caught up in what we are giving up, or what we are going to add to our usual routine, that we lose sight of why we are doing this.
What is this all for? These six weeks are our preparation for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter. For adults who are to be baptised at Easter these weeks are called a period of Purification and Enlightenment. As catechumens they enter a stage of prayer and reflection in preparation of their Baptism at Easter. We who are already baptised also have an opportunity of prayer and reflection to deepen our relationship with Jesus. We can consider finding opportunities to ask to be forgiven for our sinfulness; through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are given the grace to live our human lives in freedom and joy. Through prayer and fasting we focus on becoming the person that we were created to be. Our gaze moves from ourselves to the other. This is the reason there is a great emphasis on almsgiving. We look outwards to our neighbour. We discern ways in which we can reach out to help those who hunger and thirst. So our Lenten actions can be listed under three headings – Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Take these next few days to plan how you are going to live in these 40 days.
We need to keep it simple. Learning a little more about our faith, it’s traditions and the Holy Scripture it is founded on can help us strengthen and deepen our belief and understanding of what Jesus’ death and resurrection means for us. I know that some parishioners are doing a course on the Gospels in Lent. I have signed up for the Diocesan Lent course. Details are elsewhere in the newsletter. You might decide to read a spiritual book for Lent such as Pope Francis Book “Let us to Dream”. Denying ourselves things in our daily life makes us more open to the importance of the pain and suffering and death of Jesus that gave us new life. It is the path we are called follow. I will do my usual fast from some of my favourite things like coffee, Netflix’s and TV. I know that some will abstain from social media which is a tough one. Actively doing charitable things whether it is giving of your time or money demonstrates that deeds as well as words are needed to live out the faith we have been given through Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for us. CAFOD have a Lenten project concentrating on helping end water poverty and provide other vital support to communities throughout the world If we begin Lent and make the extra effort to make our journey together something different and special, we will be able to truly experience the contrast of experiences given by the hope, joy and happiness of Easter, with those in our parish who are to be baptised and to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church. We are an Easter people!
Here is the opening prayer for Ash Wednesday
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.