A call to deeper conversion—Bishop Brian’s Lenten message 2020
February 28, 2020
Lent 2020, Bushfire crisis, Parish life, Bishop Brian Mascord
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ
I can’t help but think back on what we have experienced over these last few months—fires, dust storms, torrential rain and wind. All these things have changed our landscape and changed us, none seemingly as devastating as the recent bushfires. As I met with people in our communities impacted by the fires, standing amongst the ashes of homes—those of people and wildlife—I was aware of the very human question within me: will these areas come back to life again?
As we began our Lenten journey, ash was placed upon our foreheads with the words, “Repent and believe in the Gospel” or, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Ashes are a symbol of penance, mourning and mortality. So, what do ashes on our forehead tell us? They remind us of our frailty and fragility. They remind us that Lent is a time to retreat into the desert with Jesus, to draw close to him and to each other. Normally, the ashes are made by the burning of the palms used during our Palm Sunday celebrations. This year, those ashes were intermingled with ashes collected from the firegrounds of our diocese. In so doing, we are joining the remnants of the image of Jesus triumphantly entering Jerusalem with all that was lost in the fires. These ashes not only mark the start of our Lenten walk, they are also a powerful symbol of our need to journey ever more closely with Jesus and with each other, particularly in our most difficult hours. It is a time of conversion.
This year, those ashes were intermingled with ashes collected from the firegrounds of our diocese…. a powerful symbol of our need to journey ever more closely with Jesus and with each other, particularly in our most difficult hours. It is a time of conversion. BISHOP BRIAN MASCORD
Our conversion is one to a deeper understanding of the Paschal Mystery (the life, death and resurrection of Jesus) and our place and participation in that mystery. In the Paschal Mystery, there is a call on the part of all of us to be conscious of our need to let go and allow God to work in us—to convert our hearts into a deeper relationship with God and a greater love for our brothers and sisters.
Recently, as I drove through some of the firegrounds, I was amazed at the life that was revealing itself in a way that I thought might never be possible again. The word Lent itself is an Old English word for the season of Spring. It’s a word that is going to mean something more real and visible for us this year as we begin to see life and resilience come to those places around our diocese where we thought it might never be impossible. I know there is a long way to go and I am humbled by those who have come to the fore, to walk with those who struggle at this time. I have said before that we are called to more than just denying ourselves, but rather to choose life, to take it up, and to give thanks for this opportunity to renew.
I pray that this time of Lent is fruitful for you and your family and that you begin to see the evidence of new life beginning to bud and grow in unexpected places in your lives because of it.
Grace and peace to you this Lenten season.
Most Rev Brian G Mascord DD
Bishop of Wollongong
28 February 2020
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Our diocesan logo is theologically rich and very succinct. As a hand, it depicts our mission as a diocese and as individuals within the diocese, of bearing (bringing, carrying) Christ’s love to one another and to the world around us. In this, we are the hand of Jesus Christ, and we are offering ourselves to him so that he might work through us.
We can be the bearers of his love only as a response to his call and in the strength of his grace. We are reminded of this in two ways—through the symbol of the dove (the Holy Spirit) also present in the logo, and by the incorporation of the cross that segments the logo. The presence of the cross is a reminder that bearing the love of Christ will inevitably cost us if we live it authentically. However, in the way that the Cross is the portent of redemption and life—an echo of the tree of life in the book of Genesis—so becoming bearers of the love of Christ will also bring us to life.
The four fingers of the hand also represent the four regions of our diocese. The first is bluerepresenting the beautiful water of the Shoalhaven. The second is a blue and green combination representing the waters and escarpment of the Illawarra. The third is greendepicting the hills and plains of the Macarthur. The fourth is dark green illustrating the forests of the Southern Highlands.