Lent – an annual call to come back to God

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The season of Lent resounds deeply not only with Catholics but also to with the broader Australian society. I was encouraged this year to hear reference made to Lent by commentators on both radio and TV. Many public commentators, perhaps indicating their Catholic roots, spoke of “giving up something for Lent”. It is encouraging to see that the season of Lent still touches many, even beyond the Church. Lent does stir something deep inside each of us. We all know that we need to discipline our extravagances or address areas where we know we are falling below our personal expectations. Lent is that time each year when we review the way we are living our life.

The Ash Wednesday reading from the Prophet Joel speaks a truth which resonates with us. With prophetic zeal and fervour he declares: “Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks – come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning.”. We know that this is being spoken to each of us. We hear the call of the Lord to “come back to me”. We know that the Lord is speaking to each one of us.

We will all take on some form of Lenten discipline – we will forego some little pleasure, we will put money into the Project Compassion box, we will try to be more assiduous in prayer. We will all try to do something for Lent. All of this is good and salutary. It is to our spiritual benefit.

In the Lenten Pastoral letter distributed on the First Sunday of Lent I addressed the issue of what I called “modern acedia”, a spiritual lethargy which comes upon us. I suggested two possible spiritual exercises which we could undertake this Lent to address this spiritual lethargy.

One was to give one hour a week to prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. This can be during a time of exposition, if it is offered in the parish. Or it can be by means of a visit to the church. I suggested that the hour would be a silent seeking of God.

An alternative spiritual exercise I recommended was to read a passage of Scripture each day. This could be done by following the daily readings in the Liturgy or choosing one book of the Bible and reading a chapter a day. This reading of Scripture is aimed at hearing the voice of God speaking to our hearts.

Lent is a time for spiritual renewal. Pope Francis, in his Lenten message this year, said:, “May we not let this time of grace pass in vain, in the foolish illusion that we can control the times and means of our conversion to him.”.

In Lent we hear the call of God to come back to Him with all our hearts. Let us endeavour to respond to this call this Lent.

Archbishop Julian Porteous