Repentance, Renewal, Reconciliation19 Feb 2016
I have been touched by the enthusiasm and excitement I have been fortunate to witness over the first few days of the school year. Staff and students are full of hope for all that might be and joyful in their approach to the new year. As Catholics we are now two weeks into Lent. I hope that as a community we may enter into this time of reflection, repentance and renewal in a similar way.
Lent is a liturgical season lasting forty days, excluding Sundays, ending on Holy Thursday. During this time we are reminded of the need to reaffirm our relationship with God. Our tradition offers us three actions during Lent that enable us to live more fully in communion with the Creator. These are giving alms (offering support to others), fasting and prayer.
Fasting enables us to experience a personal sacrifice in memory of Jesus’ death and all that he gave up for us. Some possible personal responses include: Not eating meat on Friday, or Good Friday; not eating chocolate or coffee or abstaining from alcohol. In a biblical sense we aim to experience in some way the fasting of Christ in the desert as he prepared for his ministry (Matthew 4:1-2).
Almsgiving or doing good works, encourages us to reach out to those in need. The cornerstone of Jesus’ ministry was helping those in need; the outcasts, the forgotten and those at the margins. In giving of himself, he was able to heal the wounds of selfishness, greed and intolerance. Through his Divine nature he was able to cure illness and overcome death.
We, too, can become Christ to our brothers and sisters through our actions. Opportunities such as Project Compassion and other social justice initiatives assist us in helping others. What you are able to do for another, or how much money you can offer in support is somewhat inconsequential. What is of substance is heart felt giving and the most important gift we can give to another is time. Often our time is limited due to our work and home life commitments, but the time we offer to others is even more valuable as a result.
How we choose to spend each day, hour or minute is up to us, although if we do not offer some of it to others often we have missed the fundamental point of the Gospel entirely. When you give up your time for another you are in many ways Christ to that person. Jesus himself was fortunate enough to experience the Holy presence of others in his life, Mary and the woman who was a sinner, illustrated this concept of giving (Luke 10:38-42 and Luke 7:36-50).
Likewise, prayer is a practice that we can fail to engage in, due to the pressures of life. Making a change in this area is difficult as we are ‘busy’ and may not know how to go about it. I would suggest that we are not ‘too busy to pray’; we are in fact ‘too busy not to pray’.
Making time to pray can be difficult unless it becomes something that you wish to develop as a habit, place value upon and make time for. During Jesus’ ministry he often had to physically make time for prayer by moving away from people (Luke 5:16). If Jesus, God’s own Son, found the need to make time to pray in solitude, we probably need to do the same. Communal prayer and sharing of Eucharist at Mass are vital to our faith, yet a personal relationship with God is something equally important. Some suggestions to help you start might include the following: Praying while setting aside the two minutes it takes to boil the kettle, praying whilst walking your dog in the evening, praying when you first wake up or as you go to sleep.
Ultimately, when, how and where you pray is not important, what is important is that you do!
Praying does not need to be demanding experience. In fact Jesus teaches us that we need to not go on at length to be heard or build a relationship. [Mark 6:7). Instead speak to God honestly and from your heart. He is your most trusted friend who knows what you need before you even ask and understands the depth of your love for Him. If you are unsure of how to pray, begin by giving thanks for the good God has provided, make a sincere request or an intercession for another and acknowledge that only God can provide what we require.
I hope that throughout Lent you are able to be more fully present to those in your life and are also able to enter into this time of repentance and preparation for the great celebration of Easter. I wish you all the very best and hope that you achieve success in turning back to God and spreading the Gospel.Brendan Nicholls is the liturgy coordinator at St Ignatius, Geelong.