A Call to Prayer, Reconciliation, Healing

Archbishop’s Lenten Message – 2024

DEAR brothers and sisters in Christ, we come once again, to the holy season of Lent. This season offers the opportunity for the personal and communal introspection needed for spiritual growth and renewal. As an Archdiocese, we continue to focus on the Pastoral Theme: “Manmay Bondyé, Annou Bati Légliz Nou Ansanm: People of God, let us Build our Church Together by Reclaiming our Catholic Identity.” During this holy season, all parishes are invited to focus on the aspect of Reconciliation and Healing for a Synodal Church.

This theme is particularly important, in light of the increasing division and fragmentation we are witnessing at all levels of our society: in our personal lives, in the home, the community, the Church, the wider society and the world at large. In just the first two months of this year, we have witnessed unprecedented numbers of violent crimes locally. Globally, wars are on-going between Russia and Ukraine, as well as in the Middle East-the homeland of our Blessed Lord, an indication of the level of reconciliation and healing needed among people in general.

Holy Mother Church, supported by the Scriptures, encourages Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving as the three prongs on which any fruitful observance of Lent stands.

The holy Father, Francis, designated this year as a Year of Prayer, in preparation for the celebration of the Jubilee year, 2025. He encourages dioceses around the world to promote initiatives to remind us of the centrality of both individual and communal prayer.

Lent is well placed to provide the disposition needed to enhance our practice of prayer in this Year of Prayer. During this 40-day journey with our Blessed Lord, we can engage in daily recitation of the Rosary, personal meditation, prayerful reading of the bible (Lectio Divina), Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, group prayer meetings, Stations of the Cross, Mass attendance, Retreats, and the like.

The second prong – fasting, normally involves the voluntary deprivation of one’s food consumption. However, it can be extended to various other means of sacrifice that can enhance self-control, thereby achieving the desired spiritual end. Examples can include depriving oneself of a cherished form of entertainment, such as certain television shows and parties; refraining from alcoholic beverages for the entire Lenten period; or any other attachments one may find difficult to give up.

The third prong – Almsgiving, is the act of depriving oneself of a good, for the advantage or benefit of a less fortunate person. Lent helps us realise our absolute responsibility towards the wellbeing of others. St. Augustine went as far as saying to the Christians of Hippo in the 5th century: “Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others”. This may sound extreme but is true.

Very significant for the Catholic faithful, is what is traditionally referred to as “doing our Easter Duties.” It involves all the above practices, and must always end in Sacramental confession, together with the reception of Holy Communion. The simple reason for this is, the Christian should never arrive at Easter unreconciled with our Crucified and Risen Lord. The only obstacle in our path to achieving this, is sin. Thus, all teachings, sermons, and retreats during Lent must lead us to this one end: reconciliation and healing in Christ. Only then, can we truly celebrate Easter. Easter, therefore, embodies God’s reconciliation with all of humanity. As a result, we are duty-bound to assist in completing the cycle, by reconciling the wounded areas of our lives, through Confession.

Brothers and sisters, the woundedness with which our society is plagued, is brought about by the sins of all of us: our pride, selfishness, greed, lack of forgiveness, sexual irresponsibility, injustice of all kinds, and the like. God has graciously provided us with this special season to assist us in setting things right with Him. Let us not allow this opportunity to go by without playing the part that each of us must play, to bring reconciliation and healing to ourselves, our communities, and our land. Amen!

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