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21st Feb 2023 - A Lenten Reflection

ASH WEDNESDAY AND THE SEASON OF LENT 2023


"We do not go into the desert to escape people, but to learn how to find them; we do not leave them in order to have nothing more to do with them, but how to find out how to do them the most good"

(THOMAS MERTON)


If we research the word Lent we will find that it means SPRINGTIME and a deeper meaning is the SPRINGTIME of our souls . The word also means lente ..slow or go slowly... slow down ...take deep breaths. The three great spiritual themes of Lent are PRAYER, FASTING and ALMSGIVING. We are encouraged by the Church to get involved in all three, but we must be aware of the warning of Jesus about practising our piety to get attention and to be noticed by people. Jesus is not against us sharing our insights on scripture with other people provided that it is for the Glory of God.


PRAYER

The Jews were encouraged to pray three times a day; that is morning, noon and evening and to do so where ever they found themselves at those times and in so doing stretch out their arms facing upwards and with bowed heads. That of course was not a permission to stop the traffic and pray on the street where everyone would see them. In fact, Jesus had something to say about that when warning people to pray in secret when others are out of sight and all is still and quiet.


St Ignatius taught the spirituality of the PRESENT MOMENT to his followers. In other words, being aware of the presence of God in every moment of our lives. The story goes of an elderly man who sat in the church all day long and the parish priest was curious as to how he prayed for such long hours and on inquiring the man replies, "Father I say nothing He looks at me and I look at Him".


FASTING

Fasting is an important part of our Christian tradition and is a sign of repentance. However, it is not linked to the current Weightwatchers Programme. Again, we are reminded by Jesus that it is not a reason for looking haggard or miserable so that people will think that we are very virtuous. In this current financial situation where families often struggle to put food on the table maybe we can look to other methods of fasting. There is no virtue in eating a meagre supper and then spending the evening criticizing other people. It is more in keeping with repentance to eat our food with gratitude and while doing so speak well of our neighbour and refrain from any animosity we may have towards them.


ALMSGIVING

According to the teaching of Jesus "our left hand should not know what our right hand is doing". With daily news bulletins we are very aware of the food shortages in our world and the serious situations affecting the lives of millions of people. Here I am reminded of something that always touched and challenged me when I worked in Nairobi. Every day small boys as young as five years always filled their trouser pockets with food they saved from their school dinner with the intention of taking it home to a younger brother or sister. Here in the First World, we live in a culture of waste, a situation remote from the youngest child in the Developing World.


A maxim of Catherine McCauley also comes to mind. “GOD KNOWS THAT I WOULD RATHER BE COLD AND HUNGRY THAN THAT THE POOR SHOULD BE DEPRIVED OF ANY CONSOLATION IN MY POWER TO GIVE THEM".


We might not be able to give money to every appeal but we can always give a smile, a listening ear a word of love and compassion to all those who cross our path in the course of the day. Those we meet are not always starving for food, but many are starving for the KIND WORD AND THE PATIENT HEARING OF SORROWS.

As we receive the ashes on 22nd February let us take to heart the words REPENT AND BELIEVE THE GOSPEL. Deep down each one of us knows how we can fulfil the precepts of Lent.... PRAYER, FASTING AND ALMSGIVING.


Peace be with you and know that you are held in Prayer


Sr. Assumpta

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