Rekindling Hope during Lent

By Archbishop Julian Porteous

For Catholics the season of Lent is something that stirs our consciences. Instinctively we know we should do something for the good of our soul during the forty days. We are reminded each year that this time is modelled on the forty days that Jesus spent in prayer and fasting in the desert regions beyond the Jordan and we are called to embrace prayer and fasting. We also know that Lent is intended as our spiritual preparation for the most sacred time of the Christian year – the commemoration of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We know that our Christian tradition has identified three key elements to our engagement with Lent: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. These religious practices are intended to assist us in the conversion of our lives.

Pope Francis, in his Lenten Message for this year, speaks about this season being a time of drinking in the “living waters” of hope. In speaking about hope he refers to “the troubled times in which we live”.

We are aware of a number of examples of these troubled times.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has revealed how fragile peace in our world really is. It is distressing to see the wanton destruction of cities with large civilian populations. It is nothing less than a blatant act of aggression by one larger more powerful nation against a smaller neighbour for seemingly no just reason.

We have witnessed in recent weeks the floods in Queensland and New South Wales. We sympathise with those people who face the difficult and tedious task of cleaning up the mess caused by the floods and rebuilding their lives.

We are beginning to emerge from the dislocation and uncertainty that has been associate with the pandemic. There will be many scars in people’s hearts and lives as a result of the trials that they have had to endure over the past two years.

The Pope says of the virtue of Christian hope in the midst of the trials we experience: “In these times of trouble, when everything seems fragile and uncertain, it may appear challenging to speak of hope. Yet Lent is precisely the season of hope when we turn back to God.”

The Pope reminds us that it is in quiet and prayer that we encounter God and here we can find our hope strengthened: “Through recollection and silent prayer,hope is given to us as inspiration and interior light, illuminating the challenges and choices we face in our mission. Hence the need to pray (cf. Mt 6:6) and, in secret, to encounter the Father of tender love”.

As a source of growing in hope, the Pope mentions our relationship with Christ: “To experience Lent in hope entails growing in the realisation that, in Jesus Christ, we are witnesses of new times, in which God is “making all things new” (cf. Rev 21:1-6). It means receiving the hope of Christ, who gave his life on the cross and was raised by God on the third day.”

The virtue of Christian hope is indeed in the words of Pope Francis, “living water enabling us to continue our journey”. Hope lifts our spirits from the burden of our troubles. It is a supernatural gift given by God and can be experienced as we turn more attentively to God during the Lenten season.

Lent invites us to draw closer to God. This desire to place God at the centre of our lives and not on the periphery becomes a moment of grace for us as we find a fresh hope rising in our lives. We know that all is not lost. The pain of Good Friday gives way to the Joy of Easter Sunday.

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