Bishop's Lenten Message for 2014

Lent is here again. It can be an important moment in our journey of becoming Christian. Once again, we face the mysterious reality that this journey is both deeply individual, and one that we make together.

The readings for Ash Wednesday show that personal repentance is both individual and communal. It begins in the “secret place” of our hearts, fully known only to God. It is lived out in our relationships with God and others.

To make a good Lent, we might remember that Christianity is not a religion. Mere religion involves the outward observance of rules and practices, designed as exchanges of favours between human beings and the divine.

But Christianity is a person, who offers us a relationship of genuine love.  In Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine, we find forgiveness and freedom from the tyranny of selfishness. Our daily acts of love reveal the new life in our hearts. Because they are also acts of faith, they make it grow.

Lent should not be reduced to a kind of individual spiritual improvement program. The interplay between acts of prayer, fasting and mercy can help us live the season together in Christ for the life of the world.

I have two suggestions for directing our thoughts beyond ourselves. Both respond to calls that Pope Francis has made for our prayer and action.

First, let us pray and work for renewal of Christian families as the little churches, the domestic churches. I invite families who have not been coming together for prayer in the home to make this season a time to start again.

Second, I commend to your support and participation the National Lament for asylum seekers launched by Catholic Religious Australia, to coincide with this season of repentance and concern for our neighbour.

May the graces that God freely offers us, as individuals who form a community of faith, be received and bear the fruit of new life.

+ Michael McKenna
Bishop of Bathurst

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