My Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
We are in the midst of Lent – a sacred time of intensive spiritual preparation for solemn celebration of the holiest Season on the Christian Liturgical Calendar which is the Passion, Death and the Resurrection’ of our Lord Jesus Christ.
During Lent we are invited by the Scriptures – the Word of God – to deepen our prayer, exercise greater vigilance and discipline over sin in our everyday life; to do penance through fasting that is pleasing and acceptable to the Lord and by depriving ourselves the desires of the flesh, ambitions and pleasures that are at odds with true joy and all the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Christian charity requires us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, body and soul and to love our neighbour as ourselves. Congratulations and heartfelt gratitude for the 50th anniversary of the Bishops Lenten Appeal. This collection has, over the past fifty years, served as a concrete expression of the love of God and neighbour in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland. It has strengthened the bonds of solidarity with the poor and our needy brothers and sisters.
As we mark this momentous occasion of the golden jubilee of the Bishops Lenten Appeal, I encourage you to give generously according to the best of your ability. Your donations can empower, develop and transform the lives of millions of the People of God irrespective of their age, language, status, colour or creed because after all we are created in the image and likeness of God. Before Him we are all equal and precious in his eyes.
I also encourage all of us to read slowly and prayerfully the Lenten message of our Holy Father, Pope Francis. He kindly reminds us that, “Lent is the favourable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our neighbour” (Lenten Message of Pope Francis, 2017) Lent is not an end in itself. Its goal is a vital encounter with God the Father, in the Son, through the Holy Spirit.
In the powerful words of Megan McKenna, Lent “is the work of bridging the gap between rich and poor, between those who control access to services and life and those who wait for what is leftover, discarded or rejected. This is the work of confronting unholy differences created by sin, both personal and structural. This is the naming and acknowledgment of wrong, of evil beginning with the seven deadly sins on an individual level – pride, anger, covetousness, lust, sloth, envy, and gluttony – and the structural and collective sins named by Gandhi as equally deadly: politics without principle, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, worship without sacrifice, science and technology without humanity” (p. 11 of Lent: reflections and stories).
Let us conclude by listening to St Teresa of Avila: “Prayer is not just spending time with the Lord. It is partly that – but if it ends there, it is fruitless. No, prayer is dynamic. Authentic prayer changes us – unmasks us, strips us, indicates where growth is needed. Authentic prayer never leads to complacency, but needles us, makes us uneasy at times. It leads us to true knowledge and true humility” (p. 46 of Lent: reflections and stories).
Have a most blessed, fulfilling, enriching, fruitful and life-changing experience of Lent that will lead you to personal encounter with the Risen Christ!
Yours in Faithfully in Christ
Bishop Vincent Mduduzi Zungu OFM
Mary is honoured as the Chief Patron of our Diocese of Port Elizabeth. In accordance with the official liturgical Pastoral Guide it is therefore elevated to a solemnity (big feast) for the local church and celebrated on the Sunday that occurs on 4th February or between the 4th and 10th February each year.