Bishop’s Message for LENT 2012: Diocese of Tzaneen
Christ must grow greater, I must grow smaller (John 3,30).
The Christian life can be described as a continual spiritual struggle in which we try to become less and less self-centred and more and more God-centred in everything;a struggle which is initiated and continually maintained by the Holy Spirit given to us through our baptism and faith in Christ. This struggle is described in the words of John the Baptist: “Christ must grow greater, I must grow smaller.” (John 3,30).
The season of Lent is a period of 40 days before Easter which encourages us to return to this basic spiritual struggle and challenges each one of us to face this fundamental question of faith: Am I honestly trying to be less self-centred and more God-centred in my life?
Less self-centred means we need to fast and abstain where necessary
Lent is identified with the practice of fasting. There are many dimensions of fasting.Fasting means that we cut down on activities that are merely self-indulgent which do not help us to grow in the likeness of Christ. Fasting means eating and drinking only what is necessary for our nourishment and health; it also means spending less time on superfluous activities such as excessive TV watching and internet browsing. Fasting is also spiritual such as refraining from the pleasure of gossiping and from indulging in an immoral imagination and other sins described bySt Paulin Romans 13,13-14. The practice of fasting cultivates an awareness of our sacred dignity and opens our hearts to recognise this same sacred dignity in others where God is present.
More God-centred means we need to love and give more.
Lent is also identified with neighbourly love. We do not fast for its own sake but for God’s purposes to be achieved in us. Fasting makes it possible for more spiritual and material resources to be available and shared with whom these ought to be shared according to God’s will. Disciplining our use of water and electricity makes it possible for more people to use the available water and electricity which they need.
By eating and drinking less we are able to share more with those who are less fortunate than us. Lent is a season whereby we give more – more of our time and talent in the love of Christ. The Lenten Appeal collection is fundamental in this regard and complements our fasting. Cutting down on the excessive hours wasted on TV watching every night gives more time to worship and love God – in family prayer and community Lenten devotions.It also makes more time available for you to be alone with God in your own need for quiet prayer and reflection. Less time in self-indulgence means we have more time to reach out to those who need our loving presence especially people who are confined to hospitals or their homes because of illness. If we are to share in the spiritual and corporal works of mercy in any meaningful way then it means sacrificing time for these loving services.
I pray that as we reflect on the saving sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ,God may stir within us a deep desire to share more fully in the fruits of that sacrifice during this Lenten season. May the Holy Spirit help us. May our Blessed Mother Mary pray for us. May Christ grow greater.May we become smaller.
Bishop Joao Rodrigues
Diocese of Tzaneen