ON Ash Wednesday, we began our journey into a season of grace when we are marked with ashes indicating that we are ready and willing to celebrate the season of Lent.
It is a time when our Lord offers us the discipline of prayer and to become involved in Lenten programs.
It is also a time when we commit ourselves to repent for the areas in which we have failed, individually and together, seeking healing and renewal through the grace of Christ’s forgiveness.
The season of Lent should never be seen as boring period, it is a great opportunity for us all – to take up our cross and follow Christ, to renew our faith, and to refresh and strengthen our relationship with God, through prayer and actions of penance.
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
He also said, “For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9: 23-24)
Do you remember the childhood saying, “Finders keepers, losers are weepers.”
Jesus has a different version for us to consider.
He tells us that, “Losers are keepers.”
It is indeed true, that it costs to follow Jesus – but it costs more not to.
How many of us are really willing to bear a cross for Jesus?
Are we prepared to lose our life for Him, only to find it?
They are challenging questions to reflect upon.
Jesus calls us to die every day to our selfish plans, ambitions and self-fulfilment.
In other words – it is a matter of letting His will be done and not ours.
To some people that may sound depressing, but what Jesus is really saying to us is, if we get our priorities right, we will deny ourselves, take up our cross, follow Him, and then we will find the fulfilment we have desired in our lives.
As a long-serving Vincentian, I am of the opinion that the world today is suffering from a crisis of faith, a form of spiritual amnesia, in regard to knowing and understanding who God really is, and that God loves us all deeply and unconditionally.
I now share with you some interesting soul food that I read some years ago in an story called, The danger of amnesia, which was published in an edition of The Word for Today.
“A spider dropped a single strand down from the rafter of an old shed and began to weave his web. Months went by and the web grew. Its elaborate maze caught flies, mosquitoes and other small insects, providing the spider with a rich diet. Eventually it became the envy of all the other spiders. Then one day the spider noticed a single strand stretching up into the rafters and thought, ‘I wonder why it’s there? It doesn’t catch me any dinner’,
“Concluding it was unnecessary, he climbed as high as he could and severed it. In that moment the entire web began to fall upon itself, tumbling to the floor, taking the spider with it. Could we as Christians make that same mistake? Could we spin a great web, then sever it? Could we grow so successful, so smug, so self-sufficient and adopt a secular culture and forget the strong strand that supports us? Could we look at our prosperity and respond not with gratitude, but with arrogance? Recent happenings in our country and across world make me wonder.”
In Australia today there is a tendency to remove God from all public life, and it is indeed gaining momentum.
Could that portion of the population be looking at that strand of faith upon which our country hangs and asks: “Why is it there?”
Could they be forgetting the hand that holds us up?
During Lent we are led by the Spirit into the wilderness so that we can be strengthened by prayer and penance.
The wilderness times in our lives are necessary for it is there we come face to face with the obstacles that block the inflow of divine life and love into our hearts, such as our priorities, our possessions, cars, books, clothes, appearance, and so on.
You know the kind of list we could each make, eating too much, buying too much, holding our tongue when justice and fairness demands that we speak out, speaking when we should be quiet.
Yes, these are human failings, but they are also traps.
In this secular world, some people say, “Look away from God, He is outmoded anyway, be interested in yourself, watch out for yourself, no one else will.”
When the renowned British preacher C.H. Spurgeon was asked if he could put in a few short words what his Christian faith was all about.
He replied, “I will put it into four words for you. ‘Christ died for me’.”
“Apart from the Cross there is no other Ladder by which we can get to Heaven,” St Rose Lima said.
This Lenten season let us all commit ourselves to a renewal of faith and trust in Christ.