A time of grace

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Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap

Tempus fugit! “Time flies!” runs the Latin Proverb. The Lenten season is progressively reaching towards its conclusion, Holy Saturday. From thecoldness of winter we are now enjoying the beautiful days of springtime.

Certianly Lent is a spiritual springtime. Suffice to look at what Pope Francis said at the Eucharist he presided in Saint Anselm’s Church all’Aventino on Ash Wednesday 1 March 2017. In his homily the Holy Father said that “Lent is a path: it leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children. Lent is the road leading from slavery to freedom, from suffering to yoy, from death to life… Lent is a time for remembering. It is the time to reflect and ask ourselves what we would be if God had closed his doors to us… Lent isthe time to ask ourselves where we would be without the help of so many people who in a thousand quiet ways have stretched out their hands and in very concrete ways given us hope and enabled us to make a new beginning?… Lent is the time to start breathing again. It is the time to open our heartsto the breath of the One capable of turning our dust into humanity”… Lent is a time of compassion, when, with the Psalmist, we can say: ‘Restore to usthe joy of our salvation, sustain in us a willing spirit’, so that by our lives we may declare your praise (cf. Ps 51:12.15), and our dust – by the power of your breath of life – may become a ‘dust of love’”.

The symbols of path and road which symbolise the Lenten journey are put into practice thanks to the proactive verbs of remembering, questioning, breathing, opening and showing compassion. Obviously when one is open to what gives life in Jesus Christ one is, at the same time, saying no to what brings upon him/her and others spiritual death. Hence, in his homily Pope Francis defines Lent as a time of saying no.

“Lent is the time for saying no. No to the spiritual asphyxia born of the pollution caused by indifference, by thinking that other people’s lives are not my concern, and by every attempt to trivialize life, especially the lives of those whose flesh is burdened by so much superficiality. Lent means saying no to the toxic pollution of empty and meaningless words, of harsh and hasty criticism, of simplistic analyses that fail to grasp the complexity of problems, especially the problems of those who suffer the most. Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia of a prayer that soothes our conscience, of an almsgiving that leaves us self-satified, of a fasting that makes us feel good. Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia born of relationships that exclude, that try to find God while avoiding the wounds of Christ present in the wounds of his brothers and sisters: in a word, all those forms of spirituality that reduce the faith to a ghetto culture, a culture of exclusion”.

But what are we to do with these yeses and nos that tell us what is Lent and what is not? At the centre of this preparatory time for the Easter celebration the liturgy presents to us two great feasts which are intimately linked: Saint Joseph, on March 19 and the Annunciation on March 25. Both feasts are connected with one powerful word: SURRENDERING TO GOD’S PLAN. Joseph and Mary heartily collaborated with God’s design for them although both of them could not understand its countours or deepest purposes.

The prayer for Lent by Saint Ephraim the Syrian is so appropriate to help us grow in this saving surrendering and lowliness before God’s will for us!

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, faintheartedness, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to your servant. Yes, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sin and not to judge my brother, for You are blessed from all ages to all ages. Amen.

Lent is a graced time, indeed!

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