The beginning of our Lenten journey.

Cardinal John’s newsletter | 23 February 2023.

Kia tau te rangimārie ki a koutou

Yesterday, as you all know was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of our Lenten journey.

Do we see these weeks as a gift from God, six weeks gifted to us, set apart to enable us to draw closer to God? It can be very easy to reduce Lent to the question, “what are you giving up for Lent?”  it’s a good question but it doesn’t take us very far in bringing us closer to God.

The real question that we are able to ask, and should ask, ourselves is, “how will I repent and return to God with all my heart?” The really deep question before us in Lent is: “Where in my life have I drifted away from God and what will be the things that help me to find my way back?”

In 1970, it was my first year in the seminary and on Good Friday I discovered a poem by the Russian poet Boris Pasternak, entitled “The Garden of Gethsemane”. There was a line in that poem that I have never forgotten and continue to think about every Good Friday (now for 52 years). The line was: “God has granted you to live in my time, and yet you loll about like this”. They were the words of Jesus to his disciples who were asleep on the grass.

Lent is not a time for us to loll about, or just sleep our way through. It is a time gifted to us by God so that we can look deeply into our lives, see where our spiritual lives might be mediocre, and then ask ourselves what we need to do to renew our hearts.

If we were left to ourselves we probably would not choose to devote 40 days to pray, to fast, to be more charitable in the way we share our money and goods with others. God knows we need this time, we need that symbolic gesture of ashes being put on our foreheads to acknowledge that we are human, that one day we will die and we will face God.

We do live in God’s time. These Lenten days are God’s gift to us so that we might seek God with all our hearts. It is also a time of great hope as we continue to experience God’s enduring love for us, even in the midst of our frailties and sinfulness. It is a time to experience the mercy of God and to be reminded in the words of the late Brother Roger of Taizé: “Mercy is the only climate in which we meet God.”

Nāku noa. Nā

+ John