pASTORAL LETTER FROM THE BISHOP OF LANCASTER TO MARK THE BEGINNING OF LENT
Appointed to be read aloud at all weekend Public Masses in the Diocese of Lancaster on the weekend of 4/5 March 2017 - The First Sunday of Lent -
1 March 2017
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
With the coming of the season of Lent, the Church now begins her time of spiritual preparation for the solemn days of Holy Week and the greatest of all feasts, that of Easter. In setting apart these forty days the Church is following the example of our divine Lord who, as we just heard in the gospel, spent the same period of time in the wilderness, in prayer, fasting and self-restraint, through struggling with temptation, just before He began His public ministry. Lent, therefore, is a hallowed and grace-filled time for all of us who wish to follow Christ in His Church as His disciples.
The season of Lent sharpens our awareness of the needs of our poorer brothers and sisters and of our Christian obligation to assist them in any way we can. Yet we must not forget that Lent is also intended to be a time of personal growth and for developing our own spiritual life. Through acts of self-denial and by forgoing unnecessary pleasures, we are uniting ourselves closely with our Lord in His temptation and struggle. By resisting the three temptations of Satan, Christ was rejecting purely material satisfaction, the attraction of celebrity status, and the human temptation to force the hand of the Lord our God. The Son of God is here teaching us that walking the ways of God in this life will often involve struggle and hard choices. This special season of Lent, therefore, is a grace-filled invitation from God to look carefully at ourselves, and to rediscover what really matters in our lives. Lent is meant to be a time of spiritual fruitfulness.
The Scriptural readings at today’s Mass sketch the drama which is at the heart of our faith. The original disobedience of Adam and Eve and their rejection of God’s will has left us all wounded in some way. In the fullness of time God has taken pity on us by sending His beloved Son to heal that deep-seated wound. Where the sin of Adam abounded, the grace of Christ abounded even more. Almighty God has refused to let sin and evil have the last word. The Son of God through His death and resurrection has restored to humanity what has been lost. The sacred time of Lent is a precious opportunity for each one of us personally to make Christ’s redemption our very own. Those practices traditionally associated with Lent – prayer, fasting, almsgiving – will help us in this regard.
We are only too aware of our weakness and our failure in dealing with temptation, but Lent should reassure us. The Fathers of the Church taught that the Good Samaritan of the parable was in fact Christ Himself, come to heal and bind up the wounds of a bruised and broken humanity, pouring in the oil of His love and mercy. We meet that Good Samaritan each time we attend Mass and receive any of the sacraments He has left to His Church, especially the Holy Eucharist. I also urge you, dear brothers and sisters during Lent, to make a good Confession; there as always, you will find the gentle Christ awaiting you with mercy and forgiveness.
As we live through uncertain times at present, let us be of good heart and full of confidence, keeping our gaze firmly fixed on Christ, the pioneer and architect of our faith. As your Bishop, I pray that this unique season of Lent may be one of divine grace and blessing for all of us, and that we will celebrate Easter with joy and in the enduring hope which comes from the Lord’s resurrection.
Assuring you of my prayers, and with my blessing,
Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster
The Catholic Diocese of Lancaster