FATHER DAVID WRITES: Catholics take seriously the season of Lent, as we prepare to share the fellowship of Jesus’ sufferings, and then experience afresh the great joy of his resurrection.
From one point of view Lent is our annual spiritual ‘check-up.’ Remembering the capacity we have for self-deception, the discipline of Lent is meant to help us face realistically our shortcomings and sins, and concentrate on getting right with God. Sometimes that can be hard work!
Lent 2021 is likely to be a real challenge for each one of us - perhaps even the most difficult Lent some of us have known, on account of the emotional, spiritual and even physical exhaustion of the pandemic and its lockdowns. I know I’m not alone in thinking that the trudge of the last eleven months has seemed at times like one long drawn-out wearisome Lent.
‘Why do we need more?’, I hear some of you ask!
That would be a reasonable question, except for one thing - a dimension that we so easily forget - that the Church regards Lent as a special healing time in her year. Like the father in the story Jesus told about the 'prodigal son', the main thing we know about God is his love for us. He wants us to return to him. He want to pour his healing love and blessing upon us. So, penitence is not all there is! If we allow him to do so, Lent is also when God binds up our wounded hearts and his love becomes real to us again.
Of course, there is the personal and individual dimension to this, as the Gospel for Ash Wednesday points out. But the other aspect of Lent - as seen in the Old Testament reading from Joel - is our penitence and openness to the Lord as a community. In other words, real renewal is a matter of our relationship with God and our relationship with one another.
The blessing we are using at the end of our Ash Wednesday Mass says it all:
May God the Father, in his mercy, grant all of you, like the prodigal son, the joy of returning home. Amen.
May Christ, our model of prayer and life, guide you through this Lent to true conversion of heart. Amen.
May the Spirit of wisdom and strength sustain you in your struggle against evil, and enable you to celebrate with Christ the victory of Easter. Amen.
And may almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.