HONG KONG (SE): There used to be a time when remembering the old adage, “Don’t forget to fast in Lent,” was enough to get you through, so long as you also remembered to eat fish on Fridays and a little bit less of it than most Fridays.
However, in our Church today the concept of Lent and its purpose has been considerably broadened. Speaking in St. Peter’s Square on Ash Wednesday, March 1, Pope Francis called it a time to remember who we are and why we are living on this earth.
In the words of the sacramental, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return,” there is a reminder that the dust came to life through the breath of God’s Spirit, as well as our glorious destiny as returning to again become a part of the awe inspiring life-giving recreating energy of God’s earth.
As we are people of the earth and intrinsically connected with the earth, the ashes are a reminder of the call to have mercy on the earth.
The Global Catholic Climate Movement reminds us of our interconnectedness with the earth and has produced a resource kit to prompt the memory of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Praise be: On care for our common home.
It includes an overview of his message and shines a focus on World Water Day, which is marked on March 22, to highlight the depleting water supply in many parts of the world and the ongoing need to protect the purity of the vital source of life given by God.
The movement is calling for a day of special fast as a prayer for bold action.
Earth Hour will shine a glow on climate change by turning off lights between 8.30pm and 9.30pm on March 25.
Then the week after the Church celebrates the resurrection of Christ, on April 25 Mercy Earth Weekend will be a combined with a march for science and a series of teach-ins around the world to defend the important service that science provides to communities.
These activities can help renew our belief in Christ’s hope, as well as strengthen our commitment to follow him, remembering that we are indeed dust, moulded from the earth by God’s own hands and filled with life-giving breath.
Pope Francis reminded the crowds gathered in Rome that it is also a time to continue the search for a place for our resurrection, as although Lent is billed as a period of mortification, it is actually a journey towards the fulfillment of life.
He called Lent the road leading from slavery to freedom, citing the flight of God’s people from slavery in Egypt and floundering for 40 years in the desert.
Noting that 40 years represents the time span of one generation, he described it as a torturous journey, one full of temptation to retire back to the comfort of slavery, so the challenge of Lent is to sustain the hope needed to avoid slipping back into the habits that enslave.
Pope Francis called it a time to raise ourselves above what he called the asphyxia of indifference and to care; to care for God’s creation, to care for those whose lives are burdened by superficiality and to care for the complexities of life, not be swallowed by simplistic solutions.
“Lent is a time to remember,” the pope said, “and a time for asking ourselves what we would be if God had closed the doors on us.”
There is much to remember and Father Mike Sloboda made a few practical suggestions to his congregation at Rosary parish to help jog the memory.
First he pointed out the need to make time and make space. He noted that one per cent of the value of a property is a reasonable amount to invest in its annual upkeep, also encouraging people to be sure to invest at least that much in insuring their own physical and psychological welfare.
Noting that in sleep-deprived Hong Kong a night’s rest mostly only equates to about six hours, he showed the whizz kid in him by quickly calculating that one per cent of the waking day would come to 11 minutes—what he called a reasonable time to devote each day to remembering what is important in life.
By rounding the time calculation up to the nearest whole number, the wise pastor also allowed a little leeway for coming up short, as waving a copy of the Sunday Examiner in his left hand he concluded, “It is Lent. And that’s the news!”