I adore the Easter season in the Catholic Church. Steeped in tradition and solemnity, the 6.5 week period of penitential preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ jolts my ‘Catholicism’ into action, prompting me to reflect on my own actions, intentions, priorities and purpose. For 40 days every year, my dedication to prayer, fasting and alms-giving is on point, and my self-examination on how I respond to the world and its distractions and temptations takes on new ambition as I strive to put my faith and God at the centre – both of which may have taken a back seat in the mere 2.5 months since the birth of Christ.
The first week of Lent this year has felt especially intense for me. The war in Ukraine weighs heavy on my mind, challenging my faith in God’s plan when so much unnecessary death and destruction of innocent lives – and its world-threatening potential – is occurring at the hands of one greedy for power. What good is my personal efforts of faithful fasting, prayer and small alms-giving in the face of such faithless? The only thing that stops me crawling into a ball and hiding away from the devastating scenes is the global outpouring of love and generosity in support of the vulnerable, robbed and displaced people of Ukraine. Pope Francis’ timely reminder that “Faith does not spare us life’s burdens and tribulations, but it does allow us to face them in union with God in Christ” brings me little comfort but does renew my hope in humanity and our collective mission to care for others. Ukraine is fighting for its freedom and much of the world is standing in solidarity with them, Christians and non-Christians, believers and non-believers, helping those who are suffering without hesitation not because it is Lent but because it is required.
This year, it is not simply the designated 40 days that prompts me to hone my Christian efforts but the countless acts of selfless love and humanity I’m seeing in the face of one’s greedy desire for power and possession. Pope Francis tells us, ”life’s truth and beauty may be found not so much in possessing as in giving, not so much in accumulating as in sowing and sharing goodness”; and so I pray (somewhat impatiently) that the world’s love and generosity towards Ukraine will not tire, and will reap the rewards of peace on earth, quickly.
This reflection was written in response to Pope Francis’ Message for Lent. You can read this message here.
Sally lives in Havelock North with her husband and four children and works remotely part-time for Palmerston North Diocese’s communications team. She is an active member of Our Lady of Lourdes parish and enjoys coaching sport and volunteering at her children’s school, St Joseph’s Primary in Hastings.