Marking a time and season to exercise due diligence

Archbishop Patrick Pinder: Lenten journey ends in 40 days with celebration of the death and resurrection of the Lord at Easter    

As the 40 days of the Lenten season got underway on Ash Wednesday, Catholics were encouraged to faithfully be disciples of the Lord and to remain faithful to the Lenten discipline by Archbishop Patrick Pinder. And that together, they should look forward to the celebration of Easter with hopeful hearts and joyful praise.

“Lent is a time and a season for us to exercise due diligence as to the course our life is taking,” said Pinder.

“This Lenten journey will end in 40 days with our celebration of the death and resurrection of the Lord at Easter. Let us try then with God’s grace to turn away from sin and to live the gospel. That is what the season of Lent is for and, for that purpose, my friends, now is a very acceptable time; now is indeed the day of salvation. So, let us begin this season together,” said Pinder during Ash Wednesday mid-day service at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral.

The priest reminded worshippers that Ash Wednesday served as a reminder of their accountability before God for how they live life.

The Lenten journey began with the usual simple ritual of ashes placed on the foreheads of believers which serves as a reminder of people’s mortality.

“We all share the gift of life, yet life as we know it is but for a time,” said Pinder. He said people are given a reminder of that on the day when they are reminded that they are dust and that to dust they will return. 

Branishka Lewis, left, and Amari Sherman, after receiving ashes at the Ash Wednesday service at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, on Wednesday, February 22.

As believers began the season, Pinder encouraged them to center their attention and prayers on the words of scared scripture, taken first from the prophet Joel, and prescribed and proclaimed for people each year Ash Wednesday. “It says this, ‘Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your hearts, and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.’ Perhaps, He will relent and leave behind Him a blessing. We could all use a blessing, and so the church – our mother and teacher – like the prophet Joel, places before us the discipline of Lent. Places before us, the challenge of nothing less than ongoing conversion of heart. Rend your hearts we’re told – not your garments. Surely, our response to the call for conversion must be intensely personal and intimate and most of all, sincere.”

The Ash Wednesday gospel mentioned the three time-honored penitential practices for Lent – fasting, prayer, and alms-giving. But Pinder said the gospel issues a warning first. And that it speaks to taking care not to perform righteous deeds in order for others to see them.

He said people’s Lenten observance, whatever form it may take, must not be merely a show and must not simply be an act for others to notice. And that the external gestures such as prayer, fasting, and alms-giving, or whatever form a person may decide to act upon, must be true signs of a much deeper reality. “They must express a sincere desire for conversion of heart,” said the archbishop. “And that is the core message of the gospel.”

Historically, Lent began as a reflection on the 40 days of desert experience of Jesus as he prepared for his public ministry. Lent also invokes the 40-year journey of the exodus experience. The image of the pilgrimage, Pinder said, is one that remains with people and comes up over and again. This year, he said, it is encountered in Pope Francis’ message for Lent.

“He connects the Lenten journey this year to the synodal exercise which our church is currently engaged in globally. In that Lenten message, he says Lenten penance is a commitment sustained by grace to overcome our lack of faith and our resistance to following Jesus on the way to the cross. This is precisely what Peter and the other disciples needed to do. That includes us too – to deepen our knowledge of the master, to fully understand and embrace the mystery of his salvation, accomplished in total self-giving, inspired by love.”

Believers at the Ash Wednesday service at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral on Wednesday, February 22.

To do that, Pinder said believers must allow themselves to be taken aside by God and to detach themselves of mediocrity and vanity.

“We must set out on the journey … an uphill path; like a mountain trek, it requires effort, sacrifice and concentration. These requisites are also important for the synodal journey to which as a church we are committed to making. We can benefit greatly from reflecting on the relationship between Lenten practice and the synodal experience. So, Pope Francis, in his Lenten message for this year to understand Lent as a journey … to understand Lent as a pilgrimage which inspires new commitment to the gospel, that is important and it’s also very helpful. It is to see this penitential season of Lent as a time of personal renewal and a time of conversion of heart.”

To understand Lent as a journey of love which opens people’s hearts to their brothers and sisters, and draws with them to God, Pinder said reminds people that they do not live alone. And that they live as part of a community.

He said that then requires them to be good neighbors and to be responsible citizens.

“The gospel for this day speaks of fasting, alms-giving and prayer. This gospel is but a continuation of the great Sermon on the Mount – to recall how earlier in that Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, ‘You are the salt of the earth, but that salt must not lose its savor. You are the light of the world, but that light must not be put under a bushel basket.’ We must be good examples. We must bear good witness. We must be good disciples of the Lord who calls us back to Him, no matter how far we stray, or how often.”

On Ash Wednesday, observers are asked to fast and abstain – and invited to have ashes imposed upon them. They are challenged to take their devotional duties more seriously during the next 40 days. All ways in which they acknowledge the presence of sin in their lives, then doing something about it.

“Let us try then with God’s grace to turn away from sin and to live the gospel,” said Pinder. “That is what the season of Lent is for. And for that purpose, my friends, now is a very acceptable time; now is indeed the day of salvation. So, let us begin this season together. Together, let us faithfully be disciples of the Lord and remain faithful to the Lenten discipline. Together, let us look forward to the celebration of Easter with hopeful hearts and joyful praise.”

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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