6th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 14th February
Thinking back over the last year it seems as though we have had our longest Lent. When we first started to hear about COVID we thought that it would last for a relatively short time. But in many ways, it has been like a longer penitential season. We have been called upon to pay particular attention to personal hygiene, physical distancing and unnecessary travel. In many cases, the restrictions became mandatory and at short notice. People were called to adjust their plans at short notice and many of the things we took for granted were thrown awry. There was a sense in which the enforcement of this distancing brought with it much confusion, isolation and anger. It called us to reflect on what was important in our lives. I believe this is what Lent is truly about, it calls us to notice what we need to fast from which at times may be more than food. It is what can isolate us from God and from each other. Thus, our fasting helps us to notice the places where we put up barriers to God and to others in our lives. This is where our prayer is not just time which we set aside but rather listening to how God prompts us to discover who we are called to be in our daily lives. It is listening to the quiet voice which sustains us. As I have said to our seminarians we think at light speed, God speaks to us at walking pace. When we notice that we have time to slow down we can start to see that we are not the centre of the universe. We are called to notice those around us especially those in greatest need of God’s loving presence. This is not just about observing what needs to be done but actually participating in a way which puts that loving gaze into action. So, as you prepare for Lent this is a time where prayer, fasting and almsgiving call us not to be centred on ourselves but on God’s loving intent and what brings down the hard borders we discover around our hearts.
Fr. John Armstrong