Archbishop's Message
 

LENT 2018

Dear Father/Brothers/Sisters,

We are already in the season of Lent and had our foreheads signed with ashes on Wednesday 14 th February. Lent is the spring season of the Church with its call for renewal and promise of new life. It lasts 46 days of which 6 are Sundays and 40 days kept aside for intense prayer, fasting, almsgiving, corporal works of mercy and other voluntary internal and external practices that will help us get rid of sins and sinful habits and draw us closer to God and to our neighbour. Lent is to help men prepare themselves for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Sin hinders good relationship with God and man. It deadens our conscience, harden our hearts and blind our vision. In fact we have all wandered away from God irrespective of whether we are great or small in the sight of men. The season of Lent assures us that we have a Father in heaven who loves us and welcomes us home. This period calls us to prayer, fasting, moderation and self denial. Lent is observed by all Catholics and some protestant sections. In the Catholic Church 40 days of observance began in the 4 th century and continued with greater zeal even today.
Prayer and penance has lost popularity due to the onslaught of hedonism and secularism which asserts that every human desire and urge as good. It leads you and me to forget that I am a sinner and I need to do penance. The season of Lent encourages us to take certain practices of mortification like forgoing meat, drinks, smoking, watching too much television and reducing time spent on Social media, etc. It needs also to be internal in the sense we accept suffering and sorrow that comes to us in life in the form of sickness, loss of dear ones, misunderstanding that comes our way and even giving up legitimate pleasures. Penance is not for inflicting pain upon ourselves but to experience happiness in the awareness of the Lord residing in us. Acts of penance and even prayers is done discreetly (Mt 6:16-18), and nobody boast of what is done at Lent. The key of Lent is repenting of sin and consecrating oneself to God
Prayer takes precedence in Lenten observance. It can be the prayer of the Church said, rosary, Bible reading and meditation in silence, but all done with filial love and trust. Prayer is the secret weapon for success. Our work and toil are futile if not rooted in prayer.
Spending time in prayer means we are serious about our relationship with God and we want to deepen this relationship; it means I trust him and rely more on his power than in my own wisdom and capabilities in all actions. It enables us to face challenges of life and mission with confidence. Below I summarize the message of Pope Francis for Lent 2018.

Message of Pope Francis for Lent 2018:

Pope Francis in his Lenten Message calls Lent the 'sacramental sign' of our conversion. It summons us and enables us to come back to the Lord whole heartedly in every aspect of our life... It is the time of grace anew, with joy and in truth.' He bases his reflection on Lent from the text 'Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold.' (Mt 24; 12). Jesus said these words when he was teaching his disciples about the end of time. He describes a situation in which the community of believers may find itself amid great trials. False prophets will lead many people astray and the love of God in the core of their hearts will grow cold.

False prophets:

In our times there are many false prophets. They can appear as 'snake charmers' who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others. As a result many are entranced by dreams of wealth which only makes them slaves of profit and petty interests. They can also be 'charlatans' who offer easy and immediate solutions to human suffering but would soon prove to be utterly useless. They offer young people drugs, disposable relationships, and easy and dishonest gains. They rob people of what is most precious to them namely, their dignity, freedom and ability to love. They appeal to our vanity and trust in appearances. They are agents of the evil one, the devil who is a 'liar and the father of lies' who presents evil as good and falsehood as truth.

Cooling of Love:

Our charity can grow cold by our greed for money. Soon rejection of God follows and we prefer our own desolation than the comfort found in his word and sacraments. It leads men to violence against anyone or anything they think is a threat to their 'certainties': it can be the unborn child, the elderly and the infirm, the migrant or our neighbour who does not live up to our expectations. Cooling of our love is witnessed even in creation by our poisoning of the earth: seas and atmosphere are polluted that nature instead of singing praises of God becomes implements of death. In our own communities too love can grow cold due to selfishness and spiritual sloth, pessimism, temptation to self absorption, worldly mentality and competition among ourselves.

Solution:

Pope asks what we should do at this situation. He tells us to pray, fast and give alms. He tells us to spend more time in prayer to root out our secret lies and all forms of self deception and find consolation in God. Almsgiving will set us free from greed and help us regard our neighbour as our brother or sister. Many are requesting help from the Church. We should consider these requests as coming from God himself. Fasting weakens our tendency to violence and allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure. It expresses also our spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God. Fasting wakes us up and makes us more attentive to God and neighbour. It revives our desire to obey God who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.

Conclusion:

In conclusion Pope urges us to take up the Lenten observances with enthusiasm. En encourages every diocese to take up '24 Hours for the Lord" as was done last year on Friday 9 th March to Saturday, 10 th march. (I request as many parishes and communities to this adoration during the season of Lent as a number of you have done last year). He prays that the new fire we light at Easter vigil and illumine the liturgical assembly be the sign of Christ rising in glory dispelling from our hearts all darkness.

I wish you all a fruitful Lent and a glorious Resurrection. I pray that this will be a period when we have more time to Listen to the Word of God and have a personal encounter with Christ.

+Archbishop John Moolachira
Guwahati Archdiocese
February 14, 2018