Archbishop's Lenten Message 2015
Archbishop’s Lenten Message 2015
by the Most Rev Timothy Costelloe SDB, Archbishop of Perth
Thursday, 12 February 2015
The very first words spoken by Jesus in the Gospel according to Saint Mark are "The time has come and the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News" (Mark 1:15).
As we prepare to enter into the journey of Lent this year we might allow this invitation of Jesus to guide us. He calls us to repent and he calls us to believe. What might this mean for us individually and as members of his Church? What might it mean for us as husbands or wives, as single people, as children or parents, as brothers or sisters, as friends or colleagues, as parishioners, as clergy or religious, as children of God?
In a sense, only we can answer these questions. Every one of us, no matter how young or old, is caught up in a variety of relationships. They are unique and personal to each one of us. Hopefully, they bring us joy and make our lives worth living. But relationships of any and every kind can also be complex and can easily go wrong.
We are created for love, and as Saint Paul would remind us, "the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Rom 5:5). Yet we are also fragile and often prone to selfishness. We know that "there can be no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends" (cf John 15:13) but we do not always find it easy to be so self-sacrificing.
Lent is a time for us to listen again to the words of Jesus who calls his disciples to "love one another as I have loved you" (John 15:12), and who also promises to send us the gift of his Holy Spirit (cf John 14:15-16). Through this gift, if we receive it with joy and allow God’s own Spirit to grow in our lives, we will remain united with Christ and what might be impossible for us on our own, because of our weakness, will become possible for us, for we, like St Paul, "can do all things in Christ who strengthens us" (cf Phil 4:13). This is why I am convinced that, fundamentally, the call to repent, which means to turn around and set out in a new direction, is a call to turn again to Jesus.
As Catholics our faith, as both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have reminded us, is first and foremost about an encounter with Jesus and a growing relationship of love with him. It is from this that everything else flows. The teachings we accept, the values we try to live by, the daily choices we make, and the sometimes difficult demands our faith places before us, will only ever be burdensome and even oppressive unless they are grounded in our encounter with Jesus and the joy which rises from coming to know him more fully and love him more deeply. What was previously burdensome then becomes a source of life and hope.
This Lent, then, I invite you all to join with me once again in re-directing our gaze to Jesus, as we commit ourselves to the Lenten journey of prayer, fasting and alms-giving.
As we try to give more time to prayer during this Lent let us ensure that Jesus remains at the centre. We meet him in the pages of the Gospel. So, let us make sure that we have the gospels in our hands each day. We meet him in quiet contemplation and prayer. So, let us bring our own needs, and those of the ones we love, to him with trust. And we meet him in the Sacraments, especially Penance and the Eucharist. Let us seek out the Sacrament of Penance this Lent and allow ourselves to be enveloped by God’s extraordinary compassion and forgiveness. And let us re-commit ourselves to regular attendance at Mass, especially on the weekend but also, if possible, during the week.
Jesus offers us the gift of his friendship. Let us not turn away because we are too busy.
Lent has always had a focus on fasting and the making of sacrifices. This year we could consciously make these gestures offerings of gratitude and love to the Lord. We know that words can give expression to what lies deepest in our hearts, but we also know that words can disguise the truth. Our gestures of sacrifice, and our "giving-up" of some of the things we enjoy, can put flesh on the bones of our words and show the Lord that we are sincere in our desire to be his disciples. They can also set us free from all kinds of slavery and self-indulgence and enable us to really be the people God is calling us to be.
If we do these things then the words of St Paul – "I no longer live for it is Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20) – will be more fully realised in us and the third element of our Lenten journey will fall into place. We will have a more compassionate heart for the poor, for the lonely, for the broken and for the lost and we will feel ourselves impelled to reach out to them with generosity, with compassion and with genuine and life-giving love. Again, like St Paul, we will find ourselves saying, "the love of Christ urges us on" (2 Corinthians 5:14).
The repentance called for by Jesus - the turning again to him - is at the same time an act of belief, an act of trust. As Christians, we believe Jesus when he says to us, "without me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). All our dreams – for ourselves, for our families, for society and for the Church – will come to very little if we do not accept the invitation of Jesus to "make your home in me as I make mine in you" (John 15:5).
This is the real aim of the Lenten journey. Let us support one another along the way.
+Archbishop Tim Costelloe SDB
Archbishop of Perth
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