The Malta Independent 18 April 2019, Thursday

Lent: a sacramental sign of conversion

Sunday, 10 March 2019, 09:08 Last update: about 2 months ago

Last Wednesday, the Church started the important period of Lent. As Pope Francis said in this year’s Lenten message, “Lent is a sacramental sign of ... conversion”.

If we are honest with ourselves, we all know that all of us need to undergo an interior spiritual transformation. Like the rest of creation around us we too are “wait[ing] with eager longing for the revelation of the children of God” (Rm 8:19). In one way or another, we all experience the devastating experience of sin. Even in our remotest recesses of our spirit, we all feel the brokenness and separation that is brought about by this rebellious act against God, our neighbour, creation and, yes, OUR real selves.

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In his reflection about the reality of sin, Pope Francis observes in his message: “When we fail to live as children of God, we often behave in a destructive way towards our neighbours and other creatures – and ourselves as well – since we begin to think more or less consciously that we can use them as we will. Intemperance then takes the upper hand: we start to live a life that exceeds those limits imposed by our human condition and nature itself. … Unless we tend constantly towards Easter, towards the horizon of the Resurrection, the mentality expressed in the slogans I want it all and I want it now!’ and ‘Too much is never enough’, gains the upper hand… This rupture of communion with God likewise undermines our harmonious relationship with the environment…, … the garden has become a wilderness (cf. Gen 3:17-18). Sin leads man to consider himself the god of creation, to see himself as its absolute master and to use it, not for the purpose willed by the Creator but for his own interests, to the detriment of other creatures” (no. 2).

For this four-dimensional destruction of sin, the Church always suggests fasting, almsgiving and prayer as powerful means to usher in true conversion. Authentic transformation occurs when we abandon our destructive selfishness and self-absorption, so characteristic of our times, and leave the radiant light of Easter Morning take hold of us. In this year’s Lenten message, Pope Francis gives us a wonderful and succinct catechesis of these three extraordinary means of conversion.

 Fasting, that is, learning to change our attitude towards others and all of creation, turning away from the temptation to ‘devour” everything to satisfy our voracity and being ready to suffer for love, which can fill the emptiness of our hearts. Prayer, which teaches us to abandon idolatry and the self-sufficiency of our ego, and to acknowledge our need of the Lord and his mercy. Almsgiving, where we escape from the insanity of hoarding everything for ourselves in the illusory belief that we can secure a future that does not belong to us. Thus, we will rediscover the joy of God’s plan for creation and for each of us, which is to love him, our brothers and sisters, and the entire world and to find in this love our true happiness” (no. 3).

How powerfully healing are repentance and forgiveness! During this Lenten season we would do well to have a look at St Augustine’s sermon, number 9.10, to see how, when we cooperate with Christ, our Divine Doctor, we, the sick, will be healed.

 “Sick people hate themselves for being sick, and begin by coming to an agreement with the doctor. The doctor also hates them being sick, which is why he wants them to get better, as he hates them being feverish; the doctor kills off the fever in order to liberate the patient. So too are avarice, lust, hatred, covetousness, lechery, the futility of the shows in the amphitheatre, all the fevers of your souls. You ought to hate them as the doctor does. In this way you are in agreement with the doctor, you make an effort and listen gratefully to what the doctor has to say, you gladly do what the doctor orders, and as your health improves you begin to even enjoy his instructions.”

 

Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap

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