Bishop's Lenten Message for 2015
TO KEEP A TRUE LENT
The preaching of Jesus in the Gospels always returns to a few key themes. Every year, on Ash Wednesday, we proclaim one of the most frequent teachings of the Lord: the difference between the religion of the heart and the religion of outward show.
At the beginning of chapter six of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus calls us to give to the poor; to pray; and to fast. But he prefaces this call with a warning not to “parade these good deeds before people to attract their notice.”
Three times he repeats “your Father, who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.”
Lent is a time for that deeper meeting with God and the true conversion of our hearts. Only out of that conversion can come any good deeds worthy of the name.
The seventeenth century English poet Robert Herrick expressed this teaching beautifully in “To Keep a True Lent.”
He begins by asking the question “is this a fast?” and listing possible easy answers to what we might “give up” for Lent. Echoing the preaching of Jesus, he says “no” to these outward displays and concludes like this:
No; ‘tis a fast to dole
Thy sheaf of wheat,
Unto the hungry soul.
It is to fast from strife,
From old debate
To circumcise thy life.
To show a heart grief-rent;
To starve thy sin,
And that’s to keep thy Lent.
The grace of renewal that God offers in this season is available for everyone, if only we would say yes.
Bishop of Bathurst