THOUSANDS of Brisbane Catholics are lining up in churches today to start their Lenten journey with a COVID-safe sprinkling of ash as the liturgy adapts to the ongoing pandemic.
The new practice brought in to maintain social distancing has been the custom in many countries like Italy for hundreds of years.
It became another change in a long list of changes and emphasised a question posed by Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge during his homily and one he had heard asked by many people given the last 11 or 12 months of pandemic – “what else is there to give up for Lent?”
“We’ve had to give up so much because of COVID-19, it’s as if we’ve been living one long Lent and yet here we are again on Ash Wednesday beginning another kind of Lent,” he said.
“A Lent this time in pandemic when it may not be so much a question of giving up other things than we have already given up but another kind of discipline…”
Archbishop Coleridge said Jesus spoke in the Gospel about the “secret place and of the God the Father God, who sees all that is done in secret”.
“Now in the secret place of which Jesus speaks, good things happen – prayer, fasting and almsgiving and the Father sees all of that,” he said.
“But the truth of our life is that there is another secret place in which not good things but bad things happen.
“It is true of every human being that somewhere deep in our heart there is a secret place where we hope, or think, no one sees but of course the Father who sees everything that is in secret, he does see.
“So in that dark place, that locked room as it were, we sin in thought and word and deed – and these are the things that bring not joy but discouragement; that bring not peace but turmoil; a dark locked room, a secret place that really becomes a tomb in the end, no womb of life.”
Archbishop Coleridge said this Lent could be “a time for us to unlock that room whatever it may be in your life; to unlock that room and to go into the dark and secret place and sit there with the God who sees and allow God not just to see but to speak”.
He said it was a call to a new kind of prayer – a prayer of listening before speaking.
“To sit in that dark and secret place, however uncomfortable that may be, and to allow the God who sees to speak to you,” he said.
“And as you listen to what God says in the dark and secret place light begins to break into it; turmoil does begin to give way to peace; and the wound of the locked room becomes a fountain of life – that’s the promise of Lent and the truth of Easter.
“So let that be the discipline that we undertake through these days of Lent, to sit with God in the dark secret place and to listen and allow the power of his Word to transform that place into a womb of light.”