My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The season of Lent is upon us once more, a season which coincides with springtime and the rebirth of nature and new life which we see all around us. The Church also desires that each of us grow spiritually and experience a reawakening of our relationship with God during the forty days of Lent, which culminate at Easter with the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection. In his message for Lent,
Pope Francis reminds us how we have already received God’s goodness and mercy when we were clothed with Christ on the day of our baptism. We have been reborn in Christ and the season of Lent is a time for exploring the wonder and beauty of our baptismal calling in Christ.
The purpose of Lent is not to make us feel disheartened or uncomfortable in the way we live out our faith, but it is a call to self-examination and for taking a fresh look at our attitude and behaviour towards others. Often unknown to ourselves we can little by little become self-centred and lapse into what Pope Francis calls ‘indifference to others’.
Our baptism into the Body of Christ does not allow us to pass by on the other side and so ignore the needs and sufferings of those around us. The traditional penitential nature of Lent is not intended to punish us, but to remind us of our need for God’s grace and of our obligation to put others before ourselves. Awareness of the presence of God surrounding us and of the need to engage in practical acts of charity will ensure that we grow in God’s grace and so become ever more Christ-like in this holy season now beginning.
The Holy Father also speaks of the power of prayer and its essential place in our Lenten exercises. The problems and tragedies of the world can at times appear to overwhelm us and leave us with a sense of helplessness, but we must never underestimate the effect our prayer has before God.
Pope Francis says that prayer unites us with all the saints in heaven, and so we are joined in one great surge of prayer which arises before God day and night. To know the gift of prayer and its unfailing power is one of the great graces of Lent.
My dear people, as we embark on our Lenten journey, let us be cheerful and of good heart. Let us thank God for this time of grace and for the opportunity to grow spiritually ourselves, while being conscious of others who may need our help.
Almighty God wants only what is best for us, and he has given us his only Son as proof of that. Let us keep our gaze firmly fixed on Christ this Lent, both as a Church and as individual baptised Catholics, for in his own marvellous words he is the way, the truth and the life.
With an assurance of my prayers through this Lent and my blessing,
Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster