This week we begin the season of Lent by placing ashes on our forehead as a symbol of humility, purification and sorrow, and remind us of the need to repent of our failings. But we remember also that we are Easter people – that good can come out of evil, that death gives way to new life and that there is hope in the midst of despair.
It is designated by the Church as a day of fast and abstinence, as is Good Friday.
As we ponder the placing of ashes on us,
let us reflect
Our Ancestors in the faith used ashes as a sign of repentance,
a symbol of the uncertainty and fragility of human life.
Like them, we have tasted the ashes of hopelessness;
we have walked through the ashes
of our loss and pain;
we have stood knee deep in the ashes of our brokenness.
God of our lives,
out of the dust of creation
you have formed us and given us life.
May these ashes not only be a sign
of our repentance and death,
but be a reminder that by your gift of grace
in Jesus Christ, our Redeemer,
we are granted life forever with you.
Wild Goose Publications, Glasgow, UK. © 2016
A Lenten Prayer Opportunity
Many of you would be aware of the pattern of praying the psalms and scripture known as the “Prayer of the Church,” or “Liturgy of the Hours.” Generations of Christians have woven a tradition of praying at significant moments of the day. Among those hours, sunset and sunrise have always had a special importance as the two ‘hinges’ of the day.
Morning prayer is a call to worship and includes a morning psalm, canticle and psalm of praise; a scripture reading; the Canticle of Zechariah; intercessions; the Lord’s prayer and a closing prayer and blessing.
Evening prayer is similar in structure; two psalms and a New Testament canticle; scripture reading from the New Testament; the Canticle of Mary; intercessions; the Lord’s prayer and a closing prayer and blessing.
During the season of Lent we are offering Morning and Evening prayer at Stella Maris at 4.30pm on Mondays (before the 5pm Mass) and 8.30am on Tuesdays (before the 9am Mass).
We will begin on Monday 2nd March and conclude on Tuesday 7th April. Some of you may like to take up this opportunity to add to the prayerfulness of your Lenten journey.
World Day of Prayer for the Sick – 11th February
We offer some extracts from Pope Francis’s message for 2020.
Dear brothers and sisters, the words, “Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Jesus repeats on this XXVIII World Day of the Sick, to the sick, the oppressed, and the poor. For they realize that they depend entirely on God and, beneath the burden of their trials, stand in need of his healing. Jesus does not make demands of those who endure situations of frailty, suffering and weakness, but offers his mercy and his comforting presence. He looks upon a wounded humanity with eyes that gaze into the heart of each person. That gaze is not one of indifference; rather, it embraces people in their entirety, each person in his or her health condition, discarding no one, but rather inviting everyone to share in his life and to experience his tender love.
I offer heartfelt thanks to all those volunteers who serve the sick, often compensating for structural shortcomings, while reflecting the image of Christ, the Good Samaritan, by their acts of tender love and closeness.
To the Blessed Virgin Mary, Health of the Sick, I entrust all those who bear the burden of illness, along with their families and all healthcare workers. With the assurance of a remembrance in my prayers, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing. From the Vatican, 3 January 2020
Feast of the Presentation
Jewish law stipulated that within forty days of a child's birth the parents should present their baby in the temple as an act of thanksgiving. In the Bible the number forty always indicates a time of formation. So forty days after Christmas the Church has today's celebration. As Luke describes the scene Simeon and Anna represent the Old Covenant. He embodies all those who longed to see the Christ. She embodies all those who prophesied his coming. In a few sentences Luke tells us that just as the Israelites entered the Promised Land after forty years in the desert, so now the time of waiting, searching and hoping is over. Israel can receive the promised Messiah. The old covenant has been fulfilled and the new covenant is established in Jesus.
Today's feast reminds us that when we encounter the presence of God a range of responses are on display. Just recall the ones in today's Gospel: expectation, hope, frailty, thanksgiving, foreboding, puzzlement, love and joy.
May Jesus' presentation enable us to let pass in peace any need to act before God, but rather embrace a new way of encountering God's presence, where we own just how we are, and not how we would like to be. When we do this we can enjoy the possibilities of a rich, deep and realistic relationship with God. We also find that it's so much easier to discover, with God, the causes and the actions that will lead us to healing, fulfilment and peace.
For your reflection
In what ways do people ‘offer their lives to God’ today?
In what ways can you be like Simeon and Anna and proclaim the importance of Jesus?
In what way does Simeon suggest that the ministry of Jesus will reach beyond the Jews to Gentiles?
How does this episode reflect the hopes and dreams that all new parents hold for their child?
Spend some time in prayerful reflection on what it is that you have to offer God.
(Richard Leonard SJ & Greg Sunter – Liturgyhelp.com)