Friday, 15 February 2013
Lent; New Life & Pope Benedict
As we begin Lent we need to ensure we understand the season. Yes it’s a time for self-denial, but it’s more than simply giving things up as a six week period of penance: it is a time to ‘repent’; a time to change our ways; a time to be re-made in Christ. Our liturgical commemoration of His Passion, Death and Resurrection will be a merely ritualistic, external commemoration if it isn’t made real in our own lives; if we don’t die to self and rise from our sins to new life in Him. To die to self can indeed include giving up TV or chocolate, but it should also be about seeking -through prayer, penance and charity to others- an eradication of our sinful habits and attitudes by putting into place their opposite, virtuous habits under the grace and Lordship of Christ.
Thus, if laziness is our sin we need to spend lent building the habit of industriousness and diligence; if lack of prayer is our sin then we need to discipline ourselves to a set time of each day to bring to God our praise, our apologies for sin; our hopes and our needs; if gossip is our sin, we need to build the virtue of affirming the good in those who are the object of gossip (or at the very least, build the habit of holding our tongue while admitting that “I cannot criticise because I have my own faults”). Lent will be successful for us only if we end it as a new person, remade by the grace of God and our cooperation with that grace.
We will be celebrating Easter this year under a new Pope following the resignation of Pope Benedict on grounds of age and ill-health. Be aware that a Pope resigning or retiring is envisaged by the Church in Canon 332 §2 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, and that this is not the first time a Pope has resigned: Benedict IX resigned in 1045; Pope Celestine V resigned in 1294 after only a few months in office, and Pope Gregory resigned in 1425.
It does leave a danger of course: it may mean a future Pope will be pressured into resigning by his opposition, and all Popes have had their opponents. We need now to pray for Pope Benedict; for the Cardinals who will elect his successor; for whoever is elected, and for the whole Church. I admit I am disappointed Pope Benedict will no longer hold the Petrine Office, but he has given his reasons -and may have reasons of which we are, as yet, unaware. In any case, who are we to judge? Surely if a Parish Priest or a Bishop can retire on grounds of ill-health or advanced age, why not a Pope?