The season of Lent has arrived, and Christians everywhere can prepare for a glorious Easter celebration.
When we look at the weeks of Lent as the “pause that refreshes us” we can find positive ways to invite a new infilling of the Holy Spirit into our hearts and souls. Just adding a few extra minutes of prayer time to our daily routines is one way to come closer to the Lord. Of course, making a firm decision to take the money we might use for a package of cigarettes or a lavish dinner out and offering it to a charity, is also a special recognition of Lent. But personal sacrifice is nothing without a determined effort to grow in faith during this time.
Jesus said from the Cross: “Father, into Thy hands I commend my Spirit.” Those words can be helpful to us whenever we are faced with a serious illness or we are experiencing unexpected turmoil and struggle. We are human, and we know that life here on earth will never be perfect. If we repeat that phrase of Jesus often, we will find comfort knowing that God the Father is watching over us, and His Son died for us. We never have to feel that we are on this journey alone.
You know that expression: “Let go and let God”. It is easier said than done. Many of us want to be in complete control, and efficiently run our lives our own way. But God’s will is not always the same as our will, and so we, who are strong willed, as I have learned, must be prepared every day to say: “Lord, Thy will be done.”
Let us enjoy a fruitful Lenten time by trusting in the great love that we know in our hearts is available, and anticipate Easter 2017 will bring us renewed hope in our Saviour’s love for us.
Reprinted from the Manawatu Standard
I've just had an operation. It was fine, but I did need a general anaesthetic. This prompted me to do something I had not done for a while, which was to go to confession.
This was something I used to do fairly regularly but I fell off the wagon a while ago. I have plenty of excuses for this. None of them very good.
When I did make more of an effort to go, I never really told many about it because, in this cynical age, people tend to look upon it as an act of hypocrisy. Sin all you want and salve your conscience with some meaningless absolution.
But as any adult who has undergone the process after preparing for it properly can tell you, there's nothing easy about it.
You start off by privately examining your conscience and think about all the bad things you have done since you last went.
There are a few different methods for this. My preference is to first go through the Ten Commandments and the Seven Deadly Sins of pride, greed, anger, sloth, envy, lust and gluttony. I then ruminate more generally on all the times I've been a bad husband, father, son, brother, friend co-worker or employee.
And no matter how much of an effort you've made to be a good person, you'll be surprised at how often you've screwed up in your dealings with other people.
When you are clear in your mind about this, you actually make your confession. In the movies, churches are usually shown as still having confessional boxes where priest and penitent are divided by a latticed partition. But despite having attended a number of different parishes since making my first confession at age seven, I have never seen one of these boxes.
Instead, confession usually takes place in the room with the priest sitting in a chair and you sitting opposite him. As far as I can tell, this has become the norm as a result of reforms of Catholic practices that took place in the 1960s. The thinking was probably to make the rite more informal and relaxed so that penitents would be less intimidated.
But if your parents raised you to be careful to look people in the eyes when you were talking to them, I think it probably makes things harder.
That's because giving voice to all your failings in front of a witness is actually quite excruciating. If you approach it properly, confession actually resembles a trial where you are both defendant and prosecuting counsel. By listing your sins, you simultaneously accuse yourself and plead guilty to the accusation.
It's not the priest who judges you, you are judging yourself.
It is an emotionally draining experience, especially since you are supposed to go into some specificity.
You're not supposed to skip over things with vague generalities. Nothing less than a sincere and honest effort to give a complete account of your more serious shortcomings is required for the process to be effective.
As an aside, the only reason this works is because the priest is sworn to the utmost secrecy regarding what you tell him. Clerics are not trusted like they used to be – which is the inevitable outcome of the sexual abuse scandal. Nevertheless, I truly believe that the priests I have met in my life would suffer execution rather than betray the confidence of a penitent.
Once the process of listing your sins has been completed, the priest gives you some counsel and then an "act of penance" to undertake to atone for your wrongdoing. You then make a statement of your contrition and the priest absolves you.
This is where some people will have trouble. If you don't believe in God, or don't believe that God would employ a mortal being as the agent of his forgiveness, then this step probably seems ridiculous. Nobody disputes that the claims of Christianity in general or Catholicism in particular are shocking and stupendous. That's where faith comes in.
But whether the effect is supernatural or simply psychological, making a full and frank confession creates a powerful emotional effect. As you are forced to confront the unpleasant elements of your nature and the bad decisions you have made, you find that all the pride and arrogance is knocked out of you (for the time being at least).
In the cold light of your own errors and mistakes, you see how foolish it is to presume to judge other people. At the same time, there is relief about the fact that you now have a fresh start.
In other words, it induces a state of humility.
And there's nothing exclusively religious about that, of course. We all let ourselves and others down and we all have the opportunity to try to be better tomorrow.
Sunday 5th March 1st Sunday of Lent - Matthew 4:1-11
Jesus went out into the desert. He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. The devil tried to tempt him with all sorts of silly suggestions. Jesus stood firm on what he knew to be the truth. He was polite with the devil but swept his crazy notions aside. Even under the stress of massive fasting as a human, Jesus kept his head. When the pressure was on he did not waiver from discerning right from wrong. Are we strong enough in our faith that we do the same when we are tested?
Sunday 12th March 2nd Sunday of Lent - Matthew 17:1-9
Peter, James and John were awestruck as they watched Jesus a human transform to Jesus the divine. Then they heard the voice of God. It was so terrific they were bewildered. Do we ever see God appearing? Some of us do but it is not the daily life for most of us. Because of the faith of Peter, James and John they saw more than they expected. It may be that in prayer you also will get to see more than you are expected. There is no set formula for prayer. Be yourself in how you seek and connect with God. Have an open mind as to what happens next.
Sunday 19th March 3rd Sunday of Lent – John 4:5-42
Jesus was prepared to talk to all that came to him. A woman at the well challenged this generosity. He wanted her to know God, he talked about her receiving the living water of God. Water washes away the dirt and waste. The living water cleans us of all that is holding us back. Water sustains life. The living water gives us life. Like the woman at the well we may not fully understand all that this imagery is trying to convey but we know we would like to share in this unique water.
Sunday 26th March 4th Sunday of Lent – John 9:1-41
When Jesus healed the blind man Jesus was shunned and pushed away. The same happened to Jesus when innocent he was put to death on the Cross. Simple acts of Christianity we make can be misunderstood, even condemned. But, if we want to follow Jesus we must stay faithful to what is good and right. In doing so we need to be ready to take the flack that might come our way. We need to stand firm. In doing so those that torment face the contrast between what is right and what is wrong, the beginnings of an understanding of faith and worship.
I’m privileged to be asked to lead the Parish Council of Holy Trinity. I’ve been a part of the St Anthony’s faith community since 2010, and I’m also a keen member of the singing group in that church! It is great to be part of a wider faith community that has such a clear and inclusive vision. I’m aware that I’m not as knowledgeable about some of the history and past issues of the Parish, but feel safe in the knowledge that we have a very skilled and experienced council group.
I’ve previously lived in Christchurch and Auckland and had my own businesses there. I have been involved at governance level in organisations since 2002 and I’m on the board of tertiary education organisations such as Skills Active Aotearoa and Professional IQ College. My home town is Nelson and I remember fondly my days at St Joseph’s primary school and the sisters and Marist fathers of the Parish. I completed five years study at St Patrick’s Silverstream and four years at St Mary’s Greenmeadows and studied business first at Auckland University and my Masters at Canterbury University. Currently I’m in the role of Learning and Development Manager for the Institute of Financial Advisers.
I hope my personal spirituality, governance and management experience and skills will help guide, along with the Holy Spirit, the work of the Council this year. Please feel free to call me to discuss Parish matters on 021 684 355 I look forward to meeting many of you at our combined Parish mass at Holy Cross School on Sunday March 12.
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