Week by week in our worship, we are reminded of the Great Commandments to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength; and to love our neighbours as ourselves. As we come to this holy day we know as Ash Wednesday, we confess how far short we fall of such love and we pray that God will “create and make in us new and contrite hearts”.
Lent is really a season of the heart. One in which we are called to ponder afresh the heart of God for the world and our heart for living what we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done”. Lent is a season for the cleansing of the heart, for its refreshment, for resetting its rhythms in accord with the ancient requirement of the Lord that we “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8).
This is your work and mine in Lent. It is indeed the work of all those baptized in Christ.
In our Church, we are in the midst of a conversation known as “The Heartbeat of the Church”. We are gathering to ponder and share times in our lives when we feel drawn very close to the heart of God and times when our prayer comes from deep within our own hearts. We are sharing the stories of Jesus that touch our hearts and influence our living.
We are all reading a portion of the conversation Jesus had with the disciples in the Upper Room on the very eve of His Passion and Death, his self-giving for the life of the world. The text is John 15:12-17.[Jesus said,] “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”
As we think of our Church’s commitment to live by these words, we are talking about times when our Church makes our hearts glad, when it makes them ache, and when it makes them feel hopeful. We are considering afresh our commitment to Christ and we are sharing our own heartfelt prayers for our beloved Church.
Many parishes and dioceses have taken up the opportunity of this conversation and have found themselves deeply moved by the level of conversation to which the questions have taken them. If you have not had that opportunity, I suggest that this season of the heart is an ideal time to seize it. It is a conversation that needs but a few hours – a morning, afternoon, or evening will do it. Mind you, some are happily setting aside an entire day!
I hope this conversation is a time of blessing for you and your parish or diocese. I look forward to hearing your heartfelt prayers for our Church in its commitment to live the Gospel of Jesus our Lord.
The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz
Primate, Anglican Church of Canada
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