Archbishop John Dew
One of the new Lenten Prefaces we will hear in the new Missal just implemented, prays, ‘You have given your children a sacred time for the renewing and purifying of their hearts – so that they may deal with the things of this passing world and hold rather to the things that endure.’
Do we see Lent as a ‘hard time’?
The Caritas Lenten theme places before us the challenge of these 40 days. Through our baptism we are called and empowered to be children of God and full members of the Church at the service God’s mission in the world.
Another of the Lenten Prefaces says we recognise that by God’s gracious gift each year we await the celebration of Easter ‘with the joy of minds made pure … more eagerly intent on prayer and on the works of charity’.
We don’t always think of Lent as a time of joy, yet this is what it can be if we are aware of it as the gracious gift of God.
Lent is a time to be more eagerly intent on prayer. Each day of Lent, the church offers us a feast of scripture readings that can sustain us throughout the day.
Last year, the New Zealand Bishops printed a small flyer on lectio divina which gives a plan for reading, praying and acting on the scriptures. You might like to build this into your Lenten programme – even 15 minutes a day alone or in community.
To act with a generous heart is to let our hearts and lives be touched, confirmed and challenged by the scriptures, to respond to the call to live Christ’s presence today.
The Caritas Lenten reflection programme looks at the gospel for each Sunday of Lent through the lives of some of New Zealand’s saints (most not yet canonised) including St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, Bishop Mariu, Suzanne Aubert, Fr John Curnow, Whina Cooper, Fr Francis Douglas. They prayed and lived these gospels, and acted on them with generous hearts.
The Classroom Prayers, printed this year for the first time, can bring each Sunday’s gospel to children and young people in a creative way. Adults are allowed to pray them too!
Lent is also a time to be more eagerly intent on the works of charity. To be intent on something is to focus our energies on it, to seek after it. What are the works of charity you have chosen for your Lenten intention?
The bishops’ Lenten appeal places some of these before us: a mission of health and hope in the Holy Land, developmental projects in Fiji and Kenya, as well as leadership formation of young people in New Zealand and ongoing support in the rebuilding of people’s lives in Christchurch.
There are other ways we can act generously in works of charity, perhaps closer to home: a new migrant in need of help with language study, the family struggling to pay school fees, the local food bank in search of volunteers.
The Caritas Lenten theme, ‘Called by faith to act with generous hearts’ is taken from the final address of Pope Benedict XVI at the Caritas General Assembly in Rome in 2011. He spoke of the call to conversion, to acceptance of personal responsibility for the common good, of generously giving of one’s best, especially for those in the greatest need.
Such generosity can only come from generously listening to the Word of God, and taking it to heart.