BE ALIVE, MARCH 2017
THE JOY OF LENT
The old translation of the First Lenten Preface spoke in gratitude to God in these words: “Each year you give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart r
enewed.” The new translation reads: “For by your gracious gift each year your faithful await the sacred paschal feasts with the joy of minds made pure.” I admit that these words are a more exact translation of the Latin, but there was always something refreshing about the challenge of actually seeing Lent as a “joyful season” to offset the temptation of entering the six weeks with a sense of misery and foreboding.
It will be three years this Lent since I was asked by Finlay (then in Year 4 at Much Woolton School) why we call it “Good” Friday when it was such a “Bad” Friday. As many of you know I never tire of telling the story because in my 46 years plus as a priest I have not been asked a more perceptive question by anyone, let alone a nine year old. Of course, the only possible answer is that Good Friday becomes “Good” because of Easter Sunday. Everything hinges on the Resurrection. As St Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians: “If Christ is not risen, you are still in your sins and your faith is futile.”
The same principle applies when the Church invites us to welcome Lent as a joyful season. Lent is the prelude to Easter, inviting us to identify ourselves with Christ, who spent forty days in the desert, wrestling with the forces of evil, in preparation for his mission and the ultimate sacrifice of love, which would break the stranglehold of suffering and death. I find great consolation when I reflect on the fact that Jesus was truly human and knew what it was not only to suffer physical pain, but also the mental and spiritual torment that often accompanies it. Lent becomes a joyful season when we welcome it as an opportunity to deepen our spiritual awareness to the point where our own sufferings, united to those of Christ the Redeemer, can be seen as part of God’s continuing redemptive presence in the world.
We are constantly being reminded that healthy living requires eating and drinking sensibly and ensuring that we get enough exercise. Most of you know that since being introduced to Fitbit, I neurotically try to get my 10,000 steps or more in each day. But of course truly healthy living also requires that we be at peace with one another and with God. And this is our chance to examine our spiritual exercise regime. We may well want to make sacrifices and mortify ourselves, which may well improve our physical well-being too, but may I suggest something else as well? In his letter to the Philippians, St Paul says: “Fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honour, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise.” I am making a resolution to do some more spiritual reading this Lent, beginning with the New Testament. And here are a couple of other suggestions if you are wondering where to look: both the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and his predecessor, Rowan Williams, have just published new books. Justin’s book is entitled: “Dethroning Mammon: Making money serve grace”; Rowan’s is entitled “God with Us: The meaning of the cross and resurrection - then and now.”
Have a good and joyful Lent.
Fr Tim Buckley, CSsR (Parish Priest)