The Colour Purple

‘The Colour Purple’ is not only the title of one of my favourite books and the recently released film. For Christians, purple is the colour of Lent, the liturgical season which prepares us for and leads us into the Celebration of Easter. We are almost halfway through Lent 2024. This is a good time to pause and reflect on how we’re going.

Some of us are very familiar with the terrain of Lent. As a season it lasts for forty days, beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding on the eve of Holy Thursday. It begins with the call to ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel’ issued as the minister uses ashes to inscribe our foreheads with the cross. Our church buildings and ministers are dressed in the colour purple. Many would say the season has a penitential feel. Some of us have joined a Lenten group to reflect on the Sunday Gospel. Some participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The terrain of Lent traditionally includes the invitation to pray, fast and give to the poor. Many of us have childhood memories of giving up something for Lent – lollies was the big one. Perhaps some of us have continued this practice as adults. Tied up with this idea was the tradition of abstaining from meat on Fridays in Lent. While Church law changed a long time ago to abstaining from meat only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, many continue to find this practice a value and an important aspect of their Lenten journey. I have a fond memory of one of my brothers coming home one Ash Wednesday to announce to our dad with great pride that when he went out to lunch he remembered it was Ash Wednesday so ordered lobster! My dad looked at him and said, ‘I think you’ve missed the point!’

So, what is the point? What is the point of Lent in 2024 here in this place, in this world? What is the point of prayer, of fasting, of giving money to the poor, of abstaining and of community worship?

The call to ‘repent’ is not just about Lent. The whole Christian life is about repenting. It’s about planting ourselves so deeply in belief in the Gospel and love of God so deep that we live instinctively from it. We all know love changes us. Belief in and love of God will always lead to repentance. Prayer, fasting, abstinence and all our faith practices have no other purpose than our individual and communal repentance and lifelong conversion. Giving to the poor, not because we can afford to, but because we must, is an outcome of repentance, as is respect, right relationships, honesty, justice, mercy and compassion.

As someone once said, ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. Personally, this year I have felt called beyond familiarity with the terrain of Lent, to embrace it with new eyes and with a heart open to respond more deeply to the call to ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel.’ 

As I ponder the colour purple and the meaning of Lent, and assess my journey so far, I am acutely aware of the suffering of so many of our sisters and brothers across the globe due to war, violence, power struggles and climate change. Summer in Australia was marked by flood, fire, cyclone and drought. We are all in dire need for the peace of God to reign in our hearts.

The world needs Catholics and all Christians to take Lent seriously so that we become what we pray:

(Lord) You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings, but an open ear.

You do not ask for holocaust and victim. Instead here I am.

‘Repent and believe in the Gospel’ that peace may reign in all our hearts.

To read more about the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle’s Lenten program for 2024 visit: Transformation through Revelation.

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Louise Gannon rsj Image
Louise Gannon rsj

Louise Gannon rsj is the Diocesan Manager of Worship and Prayer.

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