If you feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders these days, you are probably not alone!
For Catholics, the 40 days of Lent form a somber period, a time of fasting, penance and almsgiving as we journey with Christ toward the cross. Our tradition holds that celebrations like weddings normally be put off until after Easter, and the alleluias usually heard in Mass disappear during the Lenten season. You won’t see the altar decked with flowers for weeks to come yet.
This year, though, Lent seems particularly weighty. While we have largely emerged from the strictures imposed by COVID regulations, the world around us can seem particularly grim. Each day brings worries about sky-high rents and grocery prices, with concerns increasing over seemingly random neighbourhood violence or the systematic violence of the ongoing war in Ukraine. We worry about finding help for our struggles in what can feel like an increasingly confusing and lonely world. Even social media, originally designed to build community and keep us informed and entertained, often feels like a nasty, nasty place.
But we have just celebrated Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent, in which we pause to remember that the somber and the sorrowful are not the end. In a church imbued with sensory symbolism, the priests donned not in the penitential purple vestments of the season but in the rose of hope. Many churches opt to decorate the altar with flowers on this Sunday and asked the organist and other church musicians to turn to a lighter approach. It all served to remind us that hope is more powerful than sorrow.
Laetare Sunday doesn’t mean the end to the penitential tone of the season, but it serves as a signpost, reminding us of the road ahead. Ahead lies Holy Week, with the Passion calling us into the suffering and death of Christ, yet we remain mindful that the resurrection overcomes that suffering, offering new hope to all people.
It is in that spirit that the member agencies of Catholic Charities operate. Daily, staff and volunteers are mindful of the struggles and challenges people throughout the Greater Toronto Area experience, whether working with teen mothers, or isolated seniors, people with mental and physical disabilities or migrants seeking a new home.
We recognize those challenges, even if we cannot know ourselves exactly what families and individuals are feeling and experiencing. The call of Catholic Charities’ agencies is to point to the hope that is at the heart of the cross, serving people in practical ways in the spirit of Catholic Social Teaching, which encourages us to model what Christ taught us about loving our neighbour. If we can help with the hardships that the people in our community face, recognizing the dignity in each and every person – and that includes all people, regardless of faith tradition and backgrounds – we can bring not only help but also hope to people, improving their lives. Out of suffering and challenges can come change and good news.
Catholics (and by extension, Catholic agencies serving others) are called to be Easter people, with attitudes and motivations shaped by the empty tomb of Easter Sunday. Lent helps remind us of that call, helping us not to take our good fortune for granted but to embrace it, reaching out in turn to share that good fortune – and the good news.
This coming Sunday, March 26, marks the first of three Sunday collections for ShareLife’s 2023 parish fundraising campaign. The vast majority of Catholic Charities’ funding, which supports all 27 member agencies, comings from these collections. By supporting ShareLife you are helping to offer life-giving, life-affirming assistance to your neighbours. We encourage you to participate.