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Archbishop Robert Ndlovu issues Lenten message

18 Feb 2015 at 18:05hrs | Views
The Archbishop of Harare in Zimbabwe, Robert Ndlovu has issued a Lenten message titled, "What are you giving up, what are you taking up?" In it,  he asks that the faithful in the Archdiocese focus on the sick with the view to re-examine the pastoral response of the Church to those who are ill and suffering. Below is the full Lenten message:

LENTEN MESSAGE FOR 2015

"I was sick and you looked after me…" (Matthew 25:36)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We enter into the Holy Season of Lent attentive to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who tells us that: in as far as we feed, give to drink, clothe, shelter, visiting sickness, visit in jail, his little ones, it is him to whom we are doing these things (Matthew 25:31-46).

Lent is a time of conversion, turning away from sin and turning towards God. Jesus taught us that he is present before us in a very special way through the poor and most abandoned, who lack the basic necessities of life, and are marginalized in society. The poor are often marginalized in the Church too. Turning to God, inauthentic conversion, means taking into account and consideration, these little ones of God.

In our Lenten Campaign last year I called you to turn to God by looking at the situation of the elderly and destitute among us, in our families and in our parish communities. I want to thank you for your faith filled response and for your generosity. I trust that we continue to meet Jesus in our service to the elderly and destitute and that our pastoral ministry brings to them the help and solace they need most.

This year, I want us to look at the sick, among those to whom the Lord calls us today attention. Let the words, "I was sick and you looked after me…" (Matthew25:36), be our call to action this Lent. The situation of the sick in our country is well known, and their plight is personally felt by all of us. I want us to look at our response to this problem through the various health institutes and initiatives of the Church in the Archdiocese.

From the onset of missionary activity, health care was a special concern and an important aspect of our pastoral care. Prominent at any mission station established, was the pharmacy, dispensary, clinic or hospital. Our sisters, brothers and priests gave of themselves tirelessly in the establishment, building, caring, maintenance and development of health care facilities. The Church excelled in the education, training, formation, renewal and support of a variety of healthcare personnel.

In the times of outbreaks of pandemics the church has stepped in, through its healthcare facilities and other initiatives to help fight diseases. Our response to the HIV/Aids pandemic, attending to the infected and affected, supporting orphans and vulnerable children, raising awareness, contributing to research and management, is second to none. Our mission hospitals are a shining beacon, and our health care personnel and pastoral care workers are the human face of the compassion of God much needed by the sick.

All that we have done in our response to sickness, still remains inadequate to the problem at hand. The call of Jesus to care for the sick continues to ring clear, and demands our response. As we deepen our prayer, deny ourselves and reach out to those in need, in this Lenten season, lets us open our hearts to the needs of the sick. Our fasting will help us to be sensitive, our prayers will help us to bring them before the mercy of God and our almsgiving will help us to do something concrete and tangible to help their needs.

In his message for Lent this year, Pope Francis challenges us not to be indifferent to the plight of the sick. He says: "Usually when we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something that God never does): we are unconcerned about their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure… Our heart grows cold. As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don't think about those less well off. Today this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference. It is a problem which we, as Christians need to confront."

The challenge of the Holy Father, to confront the globalization of indifference, calls us in the Archdiocese to start where we are. Let us start by looking at our health care institutions and initiatives and give them what support we may. I want to direct our Lenten collection for this year to support our health care system, and I am counting on your support. Your material support, through alms giving, will go a long way to provide the much-needed new equipment, medicines and other supplies, maintenance, repairs, and various running costs in our mission hospitals. Let us not remain indifferent and uninvolved, but let us heed the call: "I was sick and you looked after me.

Prayer for the sick is vital; this is something that we must commit ourselves to this Lent, as individuals and communities, as families and parishes, in our groups and guilds. Let us not neglect the words of St James: "Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord"  (James 5:14-16).

By fasting and self-denial, we identify with Jesus, who endured suffering on our behalf. St Peter, recalls Isaiah 53:5, and teaches us that: "He was bearing our sins in his own body on the cross, so that we might die to our sins and live for uprightness; through his bruises you have been healed" (1 Peter 2:24). By carrying our cross, fasting and denying ourselves this Lent, we allow Jesus to heal our sick brothers and sisters, through the stripes we bear on our bodies in his name.

Let us not spare an effort to look after the sick; to pray for them, to offer our sufferings together with the suffering of Jesus for their healing, and to direct our alms to the noble work of our health institutions and initiatives in the Archdiocese.

I wish you fruitful Lenten season and the joy of the resurrection at Easter.

Yours in Christ,

+Robert. Ndlovu
Archbishop of Harare.

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