The victory of crucified love remains incomplete

01 March 2015

Dear friends in Christ,

We have now begun our annual penitential Lenten season as we journey together towards Easter.

It is a time of conversion. A time of coming home to the essentials of our shared life in Christ Jesus, Crucified and Risen!

We all really need this time. We become so easily “cluttered” in our everyday lives. Things we think we need, we don’t really need. Things we feel should happen are not all that essential. Our priorities need to be washed and cleansed in the redeeming blood of the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”.

Indeed, life can become so “cluttered” that we eventually give up on trying to walk the road of conversion in Christ. It all seems too hard! We can then become indifferent to our relationship with Jesus and then our life with others, especially the poor and oppressed.

This indifference is the theme of the 2015 Message for Lent by His Holiness, Pope Francis.

The Pope writes to us saying: “Our heart grows cold. As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off. Today, this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalisation of indifference.”

I wish to offer two suggestions to assist us all during Lent to overcome this situation of indifference.

1. How do we turn around a heart that is growing cold?

Simply, we place our cold hearts into the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Here we find the fire of God’s love for humanity. The love between God the Father and God the Son is pure love. The Holy Spirit is the way for the transformation of cold hearts into this sharing in the fire of divine love.

Essentially this becomes a fact and not just a dream via prayer. I have noticed, for example, that there are a good number of Catholics in the Archdiocese who do stop every day for silent prayer. Even if this time is short it is often deep. Others have committed themselves to a more disciplined daily 20 minute practice of contemplative prayer. All find this time energising for the rest of the day and helpful with their sacramental participation for Mass.

There may be many wholesome methods of contemplative prayer but, as Fr Laurence Freeman OSB instructed us on a recent visit to the Archdiocese, it always requires of us three things all beginning with ‘S’.

There is SILENCE

Being silent in a noisy world is not as easy as it seems. But real silence is not simply an absence of noise. It is an interior act of paying attention and truly listening to the Holy Spirit deep within us all.

Then there is STILLNESS

As with silence, stillness has both interior and exterior dimensions. There needs to be physical stillness. Again this is not easy in a world of perpetual movement. But physical stillness helps to still the mind and heart. We focus on Jesus within us. Try it! It will take time! Be patient!

Lastly, there is SIMPLICITY

We do not have to perform in prayer. We do not have to tell Jesus all the great things we are doing and slide over the things we are not doing. Prayer is about presence not performance. Simply being in the presence of Jesus and waiting on him is superior prayer. It is the prayer of Mary, who simply treasures and ponders all that the Lord is doing within her. Let us imitate Mary!

2. How do we turn around a heart that is indifferent to the least in the Kingdom of God?

The lesson of the Scriptures insists that the Love of God, as encouraged above in prayer, must lead to love of neighbour.

Recently, I returned from visiting the oppressed Christian communities in the Middle East. I met so many really desperate families. It was interesting for me to observe that so many I met immediately took my pectoral cross around my neck into their hands and kissed it. They motioned me to bless them with my Cross. These were moments of profound encounter with the Crucified Jesus. My heart reached out to them. My strong and urgent desire was to assist practically in any way I could.

Pope Francis reminds us of the immortal words of St Therese of Lisieux who summarises, that even after our deaths, the Christian desire to help those crying out in pain. “I trust fully that I shall not remain idle in heaven; my desire is to continue to work for the Church and for souls,” (Letter 254, July 4, 1897).

There can be no indifference from those who pray and express their prayer in practical action for the poor. Let us examine our consciences on this Gospel yardstick in our Lenten conversion journey to Easter.

God bless you all. You are daily in my prayer and heart. Please pray for me too.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn