Fr John’s Reflection – Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time – 23rd February

What is Lent about anyway?

As Catholics and increasingly among many Christians there is an intentional desire to come closer to Christ and to understand His mission among us. This is not just about accumulating a certain amount of information about his life, death and resurrection but rather an immersion in the vision of God’s Kingdom being lived among us. There can be a sense that this life is an apprenticeship for a “real” future life with God. The fact that Jesus walks amongst us and with us should quickly help us to see that God is with us in an eternal now. We are not just seeking a get out of jail free card to enter heaven and avoid hell. Jesus wanted for us to encounter the same living and loving relationship with the Father which sin can often obscure. There can be a sense that if only we tried hard enough, we would be able to see and hear clearly. Yet often the obstacles that we face dwell deep within us and cause us to dissipate that natural energy entrusted to us by God in follies of our own creation which distract, fatigue and diminish us. This is not God’s plan for us. There is a desire in God’s hearts for us to encounter a relationship which is so deep and so sustaining that even our worst sin cannot remove the fundamental truth that God has loved us into existence for a good purpose.

Yet Lent allows us to notice more clearly those things that burden us on the journey which God wishes us to be free from. This is not just a stoic exercise where we choose what to give up but rather a relationship which helps us to examen each day those areas in our life which help us to come closer and those things which feel like death to us. Ultimately, it calls us to fast from the things which have an addictive and counterfeit hold on us. Those things which scream at us and say you cannot live without this and still be normal. Yet Lent allows us to become more simple, to notice what actually brings life and what frees us to enter into a life-giving relationship with God, with others and with ourselves. Thus, when we fast it is not so much what we do but rather our intention to become a person who falls more deeply in love with God, with others and with ourselves. The penitential acts we undertake are not to centre attention solely on ourselves but rather on God. This will decide what we need to be free from (fasting) and what allows us a greater level of generosity (almsgiving). These are not acts undertaken solely on our initiative but out of a daily relationship with God and with our community in prayer. We cannot do this on our own. We need to journey with each other to discover the degree which God loves. Ultimately, he loves us unto death so that we may discover a new life. This is the whole journey not just a matter of routine or a “Catholic” thing. What we are seeking is to trust that our lives matter to God and that we are prepared to surrender every aspect of our lives to God so that we can live more fully.

Fr. John Armstrong