How fabulous was the second reading, on the weekend, for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time from St Paul to the Corinthians (3:16-23) which begins with the words:
Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.
Over the past four weeks, we have been listening to Jesus’ biblical teachings and ethical sayings in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew’s Gospel, Chapters 5 to 7). He is trying to teach his disciples, and us, what it means to establish the kingdom of God, here on earth. What will these blessings look like in the here and now?
During the week, I came across the following quote from Diana Macalintall, from A Blessing by Fire, which spoke to me of Jesus’ call for us to build the reign of God:
You are the eyes of Christ to be the face of mercy.
You are the ears of Christ to hear the cry of the poor.
You are the lips of Christ to speak out for the silent.
You are the hands of Christ to build the reign of God.
I am conscious that most of you will open this message on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. We will be spending the next six weeks in Lent as a community, in a time of preparation for our sacred Easter.
From Sunday’s first reading from the book of Leviticus (19:1-2, 17-18), the following words are the Lord speaking to Moses”
Speak to the whole community of the sons of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.”
What a great invitation to begin Lent with, to be holy. The reading finishes with the following instruction:
You must love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.
So, we as a holy sacred temple, are being invited to create space for others to be a holy sacred temple. The Sermon on the Mount gives us the lessons from Jesus to emulate such holiness, and Lent provides us with the opportunity to put Jesus’ words and actions into practice.
Some of us may read the daily readings provided by the church to centre ourselves, others may choose to belong to a Lenten reflection group, while some may do works of mercy, and others may choose to give generously to those in need e.g. our Project Compassion giving. This is a time of refining who we are, and each day, intentionally making real God’s presence.
I encourage you to access our 2023 Lenten Reflection: Finding Light within the Darkness which has been prepared by Rose McAllister in Pastoral Ministries - www.mn.catholic.org.au/church-mission/catholic-life/liturgy/lent-2023/
Every Lent, there is a fresh invitation to retreat from the noise and busyness of daily life. To listen with our heart, to contemplate our humanness so we can actively focus on humanity. We are invited to turn to God dwelling within us, and consider how we can find light in the darkness and how we can be light to others. This resource provides opportunities for prayer, faith-sharing, and outreach in our local community. I found the words by Ruth Harvey on page 3 to be inspiring.
Pope Francis continually calls us to a Culture of Encounter. An invitation to work for “the culture of encounter”, in a simple way, “as Jesus did”: not just seeing, but looking; not just hearing, but listening; not just passing people by, but stopping with them; not just saying ‘what a shame, poor people!’, but allowing yourself to be moved with compassion; “and then to draw near, to touch and to say: ‘Do not weep’ and to give at least a drop of life”.…
It is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony within and between peoples but a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue, this is the only way to peace. (Pope Francis, Wednesday audience, Sept 1, 2013)
Pope Francis shares the following words with us in his Message for this Lent: Our Lenten Journey is Synodal:
The Gospel of the Transfiguration is proclaimed every year on the Second Sunday of Lent. During this liturgical season, the Lord takes us with him to a place apart. While our ordinary commitments compel us to remain in our usual places and our often repetitive and sometimes boring routines, during Lent we are invited to ascend “a high mountain” in the company of Jesus and to live a particular experience of spiritual discipline – ascesis – as God’s holy people.
….. We need to set out on the journey, an uphill path that, like a mountain trek, requires effort, sacrifice and concentration. These requisites are also important for the synodal journey to which, as a Church, we are committed to making. We can benefit greatly from reflecting on the relationship between Lenten penance and the synodal experience.
Let us encounter, dialogue, listen and pray for and with each other during this Lenten season. I also ask that we pray for Bishop Michael Kennedy, who will become our Bishop during this Lent. May this path of synodality be open to him and to us all.
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