Pastoral Articles

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LENT

Lent begins on Ash WednesdayThis year it is 6 March.  Lent is a time for self-examination. It’s a sort of spiritual spring cleaning. It is preparation for Holy Week and Easter.  Lent is associated with the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness (Matt.4.1-11; Luke 4.1-13).

Many people mark the beginning of Lent by attending a service on Ash Wednesday when they have their foreheads marked with ash.   During Lent they abstain from alcohol and from eating meat or they substitute fish especially on the Fridays of Lent.

 People usually think of giving up something for Lent,  but some  think more of what they can take on, like doing more to help others or increasing the money we give to some good cause.  Lent is not just about denying oneself  something but doing it for the sake of others. That is what the prophet Isaiah encourages us to do. What’s the point of praying and fasting, Isaiah says, if this has no effect on the way we live. ‘Is not this the fast I choose .. to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless into your home’ (Isaiah. 58.6-7 ).  This concern for others is expressed in the keynote message from Isaiah in our Lord’s teaching, according to the gospel of Luke. ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor’ (4.18).

A good example of what I am saying is Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester and his concern for the homeless.  He donates 15% of his salary to help eradicate rough sleeping in the city.

Lent is the time to take a good hard look at the way we live.  It challenges us to cut out all extravagance and waste, all selfish preoccupation.  It encourages us help those in need.

God’s word in Isaiah, is emphatic:-  ‘share your bread with the hungry. Bring the homeless into your home.’

So let us think not just of what we can give up for Lent but what we can take on.