Fr. Paddy’s Blog

We live in an instant culture. Perhaps the greatest challenge of our time is to acquire the gift of patience. We don’t do waiting very well. Easter eggs are readily available, since the end of December. The challenge of lent, is to be countercultural. Perhaps a Lenten resolution for 2024, is to grow in the gift of patience. Some gifts are worth waiting for. Easter is one of them.

Lent is a season of reflection that leads us towards the three days of the Triduum, culminating with the celebration of Easter. It is a time to ask questions, a pause time on a journey, a time when we might re-examine the baggage we carry from month to month, maybe a time to lighten the load. The third verse of a hymn from the late Sixties, ‘God’s spirit is in my heart’ has these words. “Don’t carry a load in your pack, you don’t need two shirts on your back, a workman can earn his own keep, can earn his own keep”. That just about sums up the story of our journey. So the signing of the cross on our foreheads, using ash from last year’s burnt palms is a reminder of where we have come from and where we are headed and the ever-present need to take stock. Lent is a time of return, when that which was lost is found again and a new beginning sought. The ‘lost sheep’ is a recurring symbol of our experience. A few years ago I came across a solitary sheep cropping the roadside verge. It gave rise to these few lines.

“It had strayed beyond the barbed fence, head down, to graze the grass verge by the roadside.
Careless of traffic, a single sheep, carrying a rust-red stain of identity, had walked away from the field flock.
Slowly it cropped the road edge unhurried, waiting to be found”.

Saint Basil, known as the Great, was a fourth-century bishop of the Eastern Church who was known for his care for the poor. He was also the writer of a monastic rule of life, which is still followed today by monks. He wrote a short piece on fasting, which can help us to a wider understanding of what it means; Do not limit the benefits of fasting merely to abstinence from food, because a true fast means refraining from evil. Lose every unjust bond, put away your resentment against your neighbour, forgive him his offences. Do not let your fasting lead only to wrangling and strife. You do not eat meat, but you devour your brother; you abstain from wine, but not from insults. So all the labour of your fast is useless.

Maybe we could extend that idea a bit further. Why not do some of these?

– Fast from anger and hatred. Give your family an extra dose of love each day.

– Fast from judging others. Before making judgments, recall how we wish God to overlook our faults.

– Fast from discouragement. Hold on to Jesus’ promise that he has a mission for us in life. Whatever you give up for Lent, don’t let it be hope.

– Fast from complaining. When you find yourself about to complain, stop and recall some of the good things that happened to you in your life.

– Fast from resentment and bitterness. Work on forgiving those who have hurt you.

– Fast from spending too much money on yourself. Reduce your personal spending and spend instead on the poor, e.g. through Trócaire.

– In Lent, don’t just give up, take up. Take up prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Give up sin and take up repentance.

Lent is always an invitation to begin again. This is a time above to build a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Lent can be a most profound and liberating personal journey. Building a relationship that gifts our personal lives to hope and indulge in a most resilient confidence, a confidence that reminds us, no matter what happens we are not alone. The light of Christ is brighter than any clouds of despair or uncertainty. St. Paul reminds us, “With God on our side who can be against Us”. Make the most of this sacred season as an opportunity to grow in our humanity. The more we accept our wounded selves the more we grow in wholesomeness and peace of mind. When this happens our vision and perspective becomes positive and bright.

The following is a lovely daily prayer for Lent…

I Will Turn

Lord, I will turn, turn my face towards you.

I will lay before you the desert areas I hide, and turn to soak in your refreshing words of life.

I will cast aside the barren, selfish pursuits and turn to rest in the tranquil warmth of your love.

I will draw back from the harsh pull of media and turn to bathe in the gentle power of your Spirit.

Lord, today I turn my face towards you.

I will turn,

To soak in your words of life, to rest in the warmth of your love, and to bathe in the power of your Spirit.