Well Lent is with us once again…….it comes around quickly, doesn’t it? And once again we often say to ourselves, and to others…time flies! I’ve noticed most probably like you that Coles, Woolworths and Aldi have had Easter Eggs and Easter Bunnies for Sale for the last few weeks. Baker’s Delight here in Australia has beautiful Hot Cross Buns for Sale already, and we are not even near Good Friday! Once again, we see that the commercial world is more interested in making money, as it uses the Religious significance for its own ends.
In the Southern Hemisphere, we are getting close to autumn (21st March, Lunar Time), even though many of us say in Eastern Australia, that summer has come and gone so quickly. However, for our sisters and brothers in the Northern Hemisphere, they may be thinking ‘When will Winter end?’ However, Lent is that time of the year in the North, when the Lights on the Advent Wreath truly suggest that the days are getting a bit longer and there is a slight ‘feeling’ in the air and in the earth that it is ‘wake up time’; Spring is coming! However with the variance of Climate, let’s just get down to the meaning of Lent, no matter what the season is. Let’s have a brief look the origins of its meaning, so that we know what we are talking about.
“period between Ash Wednesday and Easter,” late 14c., short for Lenten (n.) “the forty days of fasting before Easter” in the Christian calendar (early 12c.), from Old English lencten “springtime, spring,” the season, also “the fast of Lent,” from West Germanic *langitinaz “long-days,” or “lengthening of the day” (source also of Old Saxon lentin, Middle Dutch lenten, Old High German lengizin manoth). This prehistoric compound probably refers to increasing daylight in spring and is reconstructed to be from *langaz “long” (source of long (adj.)) + *tina- “day” (compare Gothic sin-teins “daily”), which is cognate with Old Church Slavonic dini, Lithuanian diena, Latin dies “day” (see diurnal). Compare similar form evolution in Dutch lente (Middle Dutch lentin), German Lenz (Old High German lengizin) “spring.” But the Church sense is peculiar to English. The -en in Lenten (n.) was perhaps mistaken for an affix.
In short, Lent can be looked upon as a ‘Training time’…a toning up time for our spiritual life, which has immediate repercussions in our relational life with each other and strengthening of the Christian Community. So, looking at the Readings for this weekend, we see in the first Reading from the Book of Genesis, that our God breathed into Humankind the His life giving breath, which enabled us to know that we share in a special existence with God, and each other. However, humankind got too big for their boots and said, WE WANT TO BE IN CHARGE! That was the total misuse of God’s Gift to us. Sin is turning away from God individually and as a community in a deliberate way. The Response to the Psalm takes up a conscious collective response…Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. This little text message could do well by resting in our minds as we begin Lent. It is not a way of going around looking sad, like a Cocker Spaniel Dog, but just like a catchy turn which we hear on the Radio stays with us for a long time….this sense of Contrition is the first foundation for a real ‘turn around’ in our Spiritual lives.
So Lent can be seen as a time of renewal…both personal and communitarian. Let’s look at the Lenten curtain raiser in Matthew’s Gospel for this weekend…..The Temptations of Jesus in the Desert! Here we have a mega clue as to what to do, and what to become, during Lent. The Temptations that Jesus faced, and his response them, gives us a solid hint, for our dealing with them. These Temptations are not unlike the very same Temptations which follow us around in life too, and pop up when we are at our weakest! Under three headings: – PLEASURE, POWER AND THE AVOIDANCE OF RESPONSIBILITY. These Temptations were attractively presented to Jesus by the Devil as a preferred life orientation…Jesus, refuted these Temptations and unconditionally chose the orientation of LOVING SERVICE. Repent comes from a Greek word, metanoia which means ‘change’…not just on the outside but to change all the way through. One way of visualising this is to ask you to stand on your hands, right now! In doing that, we would see the world differently. I think if I were to stand on my hands right now, I’d be rushed off to Hospital! But, I think that you get my drift. So, let’s go back to the scripture quote….Repent and what? Believe the Good News. Belief in this case, is not just some academic approach, but our aim ought to BEING ‘Good News’. Lent is the time to STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN to what really flavours our Life. Lent is the time to do something about it. As a Community…Let’s get on with it! Spiritual Gym-time is now, and our personal and communitarian Trainer is Jesus, the Word! God’s Word each week, invites us to TURN AWAY FROM SIN AND BE FAITHFUL TO THE GOSPEL. What are you saying to me Lord, through your Word? This is the big question all through Lent.
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS: A SUGGESTION:
Programme your iPhone or whatever to remind you of this question: What are you saying to me Lord, through your Word? From this constant reminder, next Sunday when you celebrate the Eucharist in your Parish Community, you have a ready-made question to respond to God’s Word. Maybe in the Church have your phone on Vibrate to alert you……eh eh eh
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION:
Leader: In the spirit of Jesus, who offered fervent prayer to his Father in the desert, let us call upon our God of mercy.
Family:That hesitation and doubt in those chosen today for Christian initiation at Easter, especially the Elect in our Parish and all those in our Diocese, be taken away by God’s faithfulness, let us pray to the Lord: Lord hear us. Lord, hear our prayer.
That lukewarm-ness in our discipleship be overcome by God’s Holy Spirit, let us pray to the Lord: Lord hear us. Lord, hear our prayer.
That poverty and injustice in this land and every land be ended by God’s compassion in human hearts, let us pray to the Lord: Lord hear us. Lord, hear our prayer.
That the commitment of wives and husbands be renewed by God’s grace, let us pray to the Lord: Lord hear us. Lord, hear our prayer.
That the death of our loved ones, especially members of our Family and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time and the thousands of displaced people In our world who have died through famine, war and neglect, be turned into everlasting life by God’s gift, let us pray to the Lord: Lord hear us. Lord, hear our prayer.
Time for shared prayers………….
Leader: Lord God, you created Humankind for your glory, but they turned away from your love. Now you have re-created us, their descendants, through the obedience of your beloved Son. In his name, we ask you to answer our prayers, so that we may love you with all our hearts, and do all that his Gospel requires of us. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Fr Kevin Walsh
Sydney. New South Wales. Australia