Lent calls us to the ongoing process of conversion

02/02/2015

Catholic Outlook February 2015: From Very Rev Peter G Williams, Diocesan Administrator
“I pray that this Lent may be a time of rich spiritual rewards for the Catholic community of the Diocese of Parramatta” – Diocesan Administrator Very Rev Peter G Williams. Photography: Alphonsus Fok

Very Rev Peter G Williams, Diocesan Administrator
Very Rev Peter G Williams

From Very Rev Peter G Williams, Diocesan Administrator, Catholic Outlook February 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It seems that we are hardly back into the normal routine of the year and Ash Wednesday is upon us and the baptised are called once again to engage in the ongoing process of conversion to Christ.

Historically, Lent served a twofold purpose. It was the time in the early Church when those preparing for Baptism at Easter intensified their spiritual preparation and were supported by the already baptised.

It was also the time when those who knew themselves to have sinned and had been excluded from the sacramental life of the Church enrolled in the 40-day process of penance that would lead to their reconciliation back into the Church by the bishop on Holy Thursday, permitting them to participate fully in the Easter Triduum.

Over the centuries, Lent became a time for all Christian people to join in a process of spiritual discernment and penance shaped by various devotions and disciplines that would sharpen both body and soul so that, come Easter, the reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ became a transformative moment for the believer – not simply a nice religious commemoration.

Lent is meant to be highly personal, but at the same time an experience shared by and with the Catholic community.

As part of the program associated with the Diocesan Pastoral Plan, Faith in Our Future, the theme for this Lent is ‘In the Steps of Christ’.

When I ‘Googled’ that phrase there were about 51,500,000 results (0.29 seconds). It is not a new expression as you can see, but it is time honoured because the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem and what took place on the way and in that final week is the common experience of us all who are committed to being serious disciples.

In your parishes and communities I encourage you to engage with the opportunities provided through the Institute for Mission and the Pastoral Planning Office.

As is our custom we will observe the age-old traditions of prayer, abstinence and fasting, and almsgiving.

For many, this will see weekly participation in the Stations of the Cross on Fridays, more frequent attendance at the Eucharist, and more recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Some people ask, why this greater focus on prayer? In any relationship that we value and are committed to we always try to spend time with the person we are endeavouring to love. It should also be true of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Spending more time in prayer and engaging in the liturgical and devotional life of the Church indicates our desire to love God more and more. Many people (particularly from our diverse ethnic backgrounds) will abstain from meat and other delicacies on Fridays.

In the Middle Ages the Christian faithful were very strict about the Lenten abstinence and fasting. It wasn’t simply a case of abandoning the consumption of meat (they couldn’t afford it anyway as, for most, it was a luxury).

It meant the avoidance of milk products and the use of eggs, hence using up all the eggs in the house on Shrove Tuesday by making pancakes.

Why? This was no medieval ecclesiastical alternative to Jenny Craig! The discipline of fasting and abstinence reminds us of our mortality (“Remember that you are dust” … Ash Wednesday) and of our utter dependence upon the providence and goodness of God for all that we have and most frequently take for granted.

Many people will be very generous in their support for the Caritas Lenten appeal, Project Compassion, and other worthy Catholic charities.

Since his inauguration, Pope Francis has repeatedly reminded us that to be authentic as the Church we must strive to attend to the needs of the poor.

The “poor” come in all shapes and sizes. It is not simply those who are materially dispossessed and struggling to live.

Given our level of prosperity, we want to reach out and commit to really taking the challenge of Pope Francis seriously and with real intent.

Charity is the responsibility of all the baptised. This Lent let our commitment to Caritas be the strongest yet in the history of the Diocese of Parramatta.

As someone once remarked to me many years ago, Lent is not so much a time of giving up as taking on more.

I pray that this Lent may be a time of rich spiritual rewards for the Catholic community of the Diocese of Parramatta.

With my prayers,

 

Very Rev Peter G Williams

Diocesan Administrator

Catholic Diocese of Parramatta

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