|First Sunday of Lent, 5 March 2017|
From the Dean’s Desk
We are at the beginning of another season on Lent. It is a time when we are invited on a journey of renewal, recovery, repentance and hope. The Liturgy of the Word for the Mass of Ash Wednesday, that we celebrated just a few days ago for the beginning of Lent places before us the elements we need in order to ensure that these next forty days are indeed days of spiritual renewal. On that day, the prophet Joel reminds us that we need to return to the Lord with our ‘hearts broken, not our garments torn’. In other words, Lent calls us firstly to an interior journey into self which leads to a transformation and renewal which is exhibited in our actions. Lent is a time for looking inwards in order for us to truly be ambassadors for Christ as Paul reminds us in the second reading.
The Gospel for Ash Wednesday [Matthew 6:1-6.16-18] offers us three areas to consider for our Lenten journey: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Primarily our involvement in these areas is to give praise to our God, not to receive accolades from others.
Prayer should be a fundamental part of our spiritual lives. Lent can be an opportune time for us to deepen and renew our prayer if in fact we find that it is not as strong and prominent as it should be. Lent can be a time when I can take stock of my prayer habits: when do I pray? How effective is my prayer? How centred on life is my prayer? Is there anything I can do to allow my prayer to be more effective in my life?
Fasting is an aspect of spiritual life that we can take for granted. We often associate it with ‘giving up something’ – food, drink or some form of entertainment. As good and beneficial as it is to give up some foods or drink, perhaps this Lent we can look at ‘giving up’ an area or aspect of my life which can be addictive: do I spend too much time in front of the computer surfing the internet or playing games? Do I spend too many hours in front of the TV? Do I spend too much time away from family and friends? Do I spend too much time at work or in other activities that take me away from my basic relationships and responsibilities?
Almsgiving has always been a basic and fundamental charitable work among Christians. It is a wholesome way of bettering the lives of those less fortunate than myself. My contribution to Project Compassion is a viable way of achieving this. I can choose a particular charity and either financially assist it or give of my time and talent to its work. I can estimate the financial saving of my fasting during Lent and contribute that to either Project Compassion or to another charity. These are practical ways of being involved in almsgiving during Lent.
On this first Sunday of Lent we are presented with Matthew’s version of the Temptation of Jesus in the desert [Matthew 4:1-11]. Here we see Jesus preparing himself for his public ministry, spending forty days and night in solitude and prayer, reminiscent of the Israelites wandering in the desert after their liberation from Egypt. We see the Devil trying to persuade Jesus from commencing his ministry, subtlety tempting him with various means. Each time Jesus is tempted he drives Satan away by quoting Scripture, a sure indication and challenge to us of the effectiveness of God’s word in combating evil. It is also a reminder to us that Satan comes to us when we are most vulnerable, as he did with Jesus, tempting firstly with food when he had fasted for a considerable time. Lent is then a time for us to spiritually enforce our lives so that the element of vulnerability does not give way to sin and evil. May this Lent be a time of prayer, fasting and good works for us in our spiritual journey.
Fr Robert Bossini