|Lent, Prayer and Synod - Mar 8|
|2009 - Archbishop's Column by Archbishop Gilbert|
|Friday, 06 March 2009 12:16|
The day before I left the Archdiocese for my annual retreat, I had the privilege of addressing the Department Heads of the Archdiocese who had gathered at the Emmaus Centre for a two-day reflection about the implementation of the approved resolutions from the third and final session of the Synod. The Vicar General, the Vicar for Administration and the five Regional Vicars also participated in the two-day reflection.
During my address, I stressed that the implementation of this Synod session would be different from and more difficult than the implementation of the resolutions from the two prior sessions. I explained that the implementation will be more demanding because responding to the intrinsic elements of the New Evangelisation, the Revitalisation of Catholic Culture and Identity and the Regeneration of the Moral and Spiritual Values of our Society will not only require careful planning and a great deal of time, it will also require personal and communal conversion and spiritual motivation.
Personal and communal conversion and spiritual motivation can only be obtained and, very importantly, can only be sustained through humble prayer. Synod implementation is a form of ministry and, similar to conversion, authentic ministry is also not possible without prayer.
In the season of Lent, we are challenged by the Word of God to empty ourselves in imitation of the Lord so we can be open to the Spirit and, as a result, to be free to celebrate Easter with authentic joy.
The Church presents us with biblical readings which concentrate on penance and conversion. The readings invite us to make a qualitative shift in prayer as we move from Ordinary Time to Lent. We must think and pray with the Church.
Notice I did not say a quantitative shift in prayer. The well-intentioned mistake many people make in Lent is they simply “add on” to their prayer life. The teaching of Matthew’s Gospel is verified. (Mt 6: 7-15) Too frequently, the result of “adding on” is a reduction in the quality of prayer. Thinking and praying with the Church is the norm to be followed throughout the liturgical year.
For example, while it is not possible for many if not most people to participate in the Eucharist each day during Lent, it is possible for them to read and reflect on the biblical readings each day privately. In this way, they are able to think and pray with the Church through private or communal Lectio Divina.
There are a number of Lenten issues that are applicable to the post-synod needs of the Archdiocese. They are either prayer forms themselves or the positive results in a person’s life that flow from prayer.
Let us look to just a few of these issues:
1) Meditation. The experience of the Church is that a comfort with periodic quiet in one’s life helps a person to develop a listening attitude through which an awareness of and an appreciation of the presence of God and the will of God is sharpened. Through meditation, personal weakness is identified and confronted. Through meditation, personal strengths are maximised not in an arrogant way but to be used for worship, service and collaborative ministry.
2) Renewal and Growth. It is absolutely amazing how quickly routine and compromise, which frequently leads to sin, can begin to dull one’s commitment to the Lord. Equally true is the effect of being too busy to pray, reflect and maintain a holistic rhythm to one’s life. Many people forgot the old saying: “people never saw their fall coming!” They believed it (sin, scandal, vocational loss) could never happen to them.
The importance of ongoing renewal and being involved in opportunities for growth whether individual or communal must be appreciated or life becomes stale. Life never stands still. No matter what our age, we must make every effort to maintain a meaningful quality of life.
3) Penance. Lent is a time of penance. Pope John Paul VI gave a simple definition of penance. He taught that penance is a religious, personal act which has as its aim love and surrender to God. Properly motivated penance helps us to recognise and acknowledge that we have sinned, it helps us to develop the discipline of life that will enable us to be faithful to our vocations and it gives us insight into the fundamental issue of conversion: the change of attitude – mind and heart – that leads to forgiveness of sin through the mediation of the Church in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Even when we are not faithful to our Lenten plans for penance, we gain insight into ourselves. Our assumption that we are in control, that we can do what we want if we really want to do it is just an assumption. Without God’s help we cannot persevere in anything.
4) Fasting. Pope John Paul VI offers an interesting insight to fasting as a form of penance. He taught that people can be chained to their senses. Therefore, true penitence eg fasting “can never prescind from physical asceticism as well.” In his Lenten Message, Pope Benedict builds on the teaching of his predecessor. He teaches that fasting contributes to conferring unity to the whole person, helps us to avoid sin and to grow in intimacy with God.
5) Almsgiving. Almsgiving is a sign of the shift from self-interest to sharing and caring for others in some way e.g. by sharing time, talent and treasure. It is a protection from having self- interests reemerge in our lives and interfere with intentions for penance which were initially intended to challenge “the self”. Almsgiving also encourages leaving personal privacy and becoming involved in Church, developing comfort with collaboration and solidarity.
The theology and spirituality of Lent can serve the post-synod needs of the Archdiocese quite well. If we as an Archdiocese can live Lent well, we will be disposed to collaborate generously in solidarity to implement the Synod over the next five years. May God bless our efforts to be Church!________________________________________________________________________________________ **DISCLAIMER**: User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Camsel/Catholic News or its staff. Camsel/Catholic News accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments. Please help us keep our site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option. Camsel/Catholic News reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed. Before posting, please refer to the Comments Policy under Resources