Each Lent begins with the Church signing us in Ashes with the words, "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return". As a Pastor of the Community I also like to add the words of Jesus, "Remember, anyone who believes in me, will live forever".(Jn 6.47). I do this because although it is good to be reminded in Lent of the shortness of our human life, Lent's key message is Christ's gift to us of eternal life. The words of Jesus come quickly to my mind," I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full". (Jn10.10). The purpose of Lent is to strengthen our lives and to remind us of the shortness of our life so that we can live our lives to the full, to make the best use of our life, valuing each breath we breathe and celebrate each moment we live. The first Lent began as Jesus, filled with the Spirit, at his Baptism by John is driven into the Desert for forty days and nights. He is empowered by the Spirit throughout his life and Lent is a great season for us to be filled with life in abundance. As the days lengthen and there are more daylight hours so we are invited to experience in many different ways the life of the Holy Spirit.
We can feel and sense the Holy Spirit in nature's new spring-time plants and flowers. We can allow the Holy Spirit to awaken us to prayer allowing God's love to make us more aware of the wonder of our personality. We can use our Lent to form new friendships, to undertake new challenges, to make new choices for healthy living and taking greater care of our well-being. Especially we can reflect upon the abundant life of Jesus that was full of adventure, fun, laughter and dance. To be around Jesus meant that life was always interesting and full of surprises and celebration. So if we invite the Holy Spirit into our life this Lent our life will become much richer in a variety of ways. A sure sign of the Spirit's presence will be a gratitude to be alive, a sense that every day is precious, even our bad days seem not so bad! We have our eyes open to compassion, to be grateful for the inspiration of those suffering more hardship than ourselves. We notice the importance of small acts of self-giving, the happiness that comes from learning to give more than we receive. The Holy Spirit shows us how to be content with less material comforts and how to be at peace in our own company. We can even discover that having less can make us more content. Finally, Jesus in the desert, shows us the way to slow our lives down, to do less that God can do more for us. The Holy Spirit will lead us into silence and rest, taking time out for ourselves in order to have more patience and understanding with our family, friends and neighbours.
May this Lent find us echoing a deep appreciation of life, a daily thank you to God for another day, and a resolution to treasure those who love us. Remember we journey from the Ashes of the beginning of Lent to the Festive Paschal Candle of Easter, a foretaste of Heaven's Paradise and Playground!
Wishing you much joy as a disciple of Jesus, may your light shine brightly this Lent to make St John's a welcoming place, a safe and secure home for our children and a healing sanctuary for all who are hurt and broken.
Your friend, priest and fellow pilgrim, Canon David Ryan.
Download our Lent 2017 booklet containing events and mass times.