It does not seem that long ago since I wrote my Advent letter, and yet, here we are already near to the beginning of Lent. Once again I have been asking the Lord in my prayer what He wants me to write about and as I started thinking about the approaching Lenten journey, another journey came to mind. It was the synodal journey. I know that I have just recently written to you about that and, hopefully, some of you are going to send me your thoughts about it, but it dawned on me that perhaps all of us can use Lent to pray more about the synod and, of course, if the synod itself is to be a success, then a great deal of prayer is needed.
We have long been accustomed to the traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving but I wonder if this year we can try to make links between them and the three synodal themes of Communion, Participation and Mission. We can, for example, make Lent a synodal journey as we pray together as community, as Congregation or as parish, participating in those activities which are happening around us and, perhaps, giving more time and attention to our mission of spreading the Gospel.
Today, many people rely on our prayers for them, not just those we know but the millions who are suffering in our world who are hungry or homeless, or in places like Syria or Ukraine and other war torn parts of the world, not to mention those who still have not heard the name of Jesus. We remember the words of St Paul “Pray without ceasing” (1Thess 5:17-18) We know too that when we pray the Office in community, we are communion with the whole church all over the world. As the words of a well know hymn for night prayer tell us
“The sun that bids us rest is waking our brethren ‘neath the western sky and hour by hour, fresh lips are making Thy wondrous doings heard on high.”
When we were younger the emphasis on fasting in Lent was literally about eating less and on certain days, eating very little, something that millions of people experience everyday through no fault of their own and just have to accept because they have no choice. As children we perhaps gave up sweets, the thought of Easter eggs on Easter Sunday keeping us going but today we are encouraged to go beyond what might be feelings of being virtuous or self satisfaction on our achievement. Quietly giving our time to visit someone who is lonely or sick instead of constantly checking our phone messages or writing on social media is probably harder than giving up our favourite food and we may never see what it achieves but “our Father who sees everything that is done in secret will reward us.” (Mt6:8)
The late St Oscar Romero who greatly inspired me said “We may never see the end results but that is the difference between the Master Craftsman and the builders.”
All who are baptised share in the Mission of Christ to share the Good News of the Kingdom. We do so as much, if not more so, by giving example of the love which Christ shares with us, treating others with respect , patience and understanding. We must speak out for those with no voice and when we need to disagree with something that we know to be wrong, we do so not in confrontation but by “speaking the truth boldly” (2 Tim 4:2) As Pope Francis said in 2018 in Estonia “For love shatters the chains that keep us isolated and separate; in their place, it builds bridges. Love enables us to create one great family where all of us can feel at home....... Love exudes compassion and dignity (Fratelli Tutti Para: 62) Two paragraphs later he warns us “let us admit that for all the progress we have made, we are still “illiterate” when it comes to accompanying, caring for and supporting the most frail and vulnerable members of our developed societies” (Para 64) and “Jesus encourages us to persevere in love, to restore dignity to the suffering and to build a society worthy of the name.” (Para 71)
This is not the mission of others – IT IS MY MISSION.
Whether you think of prayer, fasting and almsgiving or communion, participation and mission, or, hopefully both, please do something this Lent to show those around us that we have not only heard the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor but we are doing something about it!
Blessed be God, how wonderful are His ways!
With my love and prayers
Sister Maureen, FMSJ