'Hello friends, this is the first time in 2021 that I've recommenced these (hopefully) weekly little messages for you. It's the first Sunday of Lent, this Sunday that I'm filming this and I thought I'd take the opportunity to just offer you my prayer and encouragement during this time of Lent.
Certainly, 2021 Lent is somewhat different to our experience 12 months ago. Twelve months ago at this time we didn't really know at that stage about COVID. It was a sort of a whisper about some flu-like thing that was happening. But very soon into our Lenten time we started to realise just the seriousness of the pandemic and it was a bit like a flood that came that has come upon the world—just as in this first Sunday of Lent in our Sunday reading, we hear about Noah and the flood. But it's important, I think, that we might remember that God promised that the world would never be destroyed by a flood again. So we can take that promise in terms of this, our current circumstances. And I just wanted to encourage you in that regard.
As you know, Lent is a time when we prepare ourselves for entering into more fully the Lord's passion, death and resurrection—His suffering, His dying, His rising. We call this in the Church the Paschal Mystery. The Paschal Mystery together sums up our own faith in Jesus Christ who gives Himself that we might have life in Him. So, in our journey through Lent this year, I just encourage you to find ways in which you might be able to undertake those beautiful practices. Sometimes we call them “disciplines” of Lent: of praying, fasting or going without, and of almsgiving or charity towards others.
I like to think of it a bit like that other combination of three—of faith, hope and love. Prayer is an act of faith and faith is very much trust. So in prayer, we know that we can trust the Lord, and build that relationship of trust and faith. As we go without in fasting, in a penitential way, we do so in the hope that we might enter more fully into the life of Christ, therefore into His resurrection. And by our attentiveness, and our turning towards others, making acts of love towards them. So, prayer, fasting, almsgiving—faith, hope, love.
And just one further thought before we finish today. As you know, we're now beginning the process of rolling out a system for vaccination throughout Australia from COVID. Vaccinations don't cure us of COVID, but they will provide a substantial level of protection across our country. And I just want to let you know that I certainly will be receiving a vaccination when my turn comes which is several months down the track I understand, but when that time comes. And I just want to assure you that you are able to, at an ethical level, receive a vaccination that is made available for you at the time.
My hope is that there might be choices that you can make—one vaccine is not necessarily the same as the other ethically—so I hope there is a choice for you in that regard. But if there is not, it is morally permissible to take whichever vaccine is available for you at the time. Of course, you need to make your own decisions as to questions of safety and effectiveness for you personally and your family at that time, and certainly I encourage you to make those prudential judgments. But just to also encourage you to recognise the good of taking the vaccination for the sake of everyone in your own family, amongst your neighbourhood and for our country more generally.
Back to Lent... be assured of my prayer for all of you at this time. May this season fill you with an intensity of closeness to the Lord so that that closeness may then show in your life for the sake of others.
In fact, I would like to say, happy Lent!'
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli15 February 2021
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli18 December 2020