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Saturday, 05 March 2022 16:54

First Sunday of Lent - 2022

Fr Michael Hardie 150 hsThis Sunday the 6th of March, the Universal Church enters the sacred time of Lent. Marked by the celebration of Ash Wednesday, we are reminded both by tradition and Gospel that this is a sacred time, a penitential time, to consider the beauty of humanity in God’s creation, but also to remember the limitations we have as human beings. We will not live forever on this earth, but we are promised in the Gospels that as followers of the life of Christ, repenting our misdeeds, we can anticipate a better life with Him in that timeless time we call ‘Eternity.’

Luke’s Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent tells us that even Jesus was tempted, as we are. However, there is a difference: in strength of spirit, Jesus did not succumb to the wily words of the tempter, but strengthened by the Book of Deuteronomy, turned aside from the temptations to power and magic. There would be no more temptation until, as Luke states, ‘the appointed time’.

Man in summer clothes with sunglasses is going down the red dune tracing his footprints during sunny day in UAE Liwa desert, at the beautiful rippled sand That mention of the tempter returning ‘at the appointed time’ implies that it was not over for Jesus: more temptations would come. Indeed, it was so. Although in the resurrection Jesus overcame the grave, evil continues along with the good in our world today. The temptations Jesus experienced in the desert are still the temptations of our day: temptations to power and position, to dominance and gain. And we see this played out over today’s world, as those already in power seek to grasp more and more, causing suffering and death as they do so.

It is common for the world’s religions and philosophies to set aside in the year a time of fasting and privation. Christians – both Orthodox and Latin – hold Lenten observances.  Muslims observe the 28-day Ramadan fast from dawn to dusk.  Fasting is a regular practice in Hinduism and Buddhism. For us as Christians, fasting – although once obligatory during Lent – is now a more optional and pious practice, although most would still hold to a voluntary, self-prescribed form of the strict regimes of our grandparents.

The season of Lent in the Ukrainian Christian Orthodox Church is called ‘Great Lent.’ Not optional, it is a time of self-denial and abstinence from all meat, poultry and their products. Some families even forgo eggs, butter, milk and even fish, as they strive to follow closely the strict regimes of their traditional Eastern Church. It is a time of great personal sacrifice. But this year, with the arrival of war, Great Lent has come early. The people of Ukraine have entered into a time of war and loss which they have not chosen for themselves, as a power-hungry dictator from neighbouring Russia seeks to add their country to his territory. In the sufferings and losses of the people of Ukraine today, we see a season of Lent that surpasses even their worst imaginings.

For us in peaceful Australia, we can choose to give up for Lent what we wish out of our abundance. Believe me, nothing we may choose to forgo can equal what the Ukrainian people have had taken away by invasion and war. But what can be done from here? In responding to the plight of the people of Ukraine, the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference has penned some words of prayer that we might remember as we watch the increasingly desperate situations of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in our daily news bulletins:

“God of peace and justice, we entrust the people of Ukraine to you.

Protect them now in their time of peril; let them know not death but life; not slavery but freedom.

You are Father of all; we are brothers and sisters.

Give us the strength to choose peace not war.  Amen.”

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