A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Focus on Lent

Fr Kevin Head SM

In his book The Moon’s a Balloon, David Niven recounts a delightful story from Herbert Mundin’s service in the British Navy during World War I.

As a stoker, Mundin spent his working days deep below deck shovelling coal into the boiler fires. The work was sweaty, exhausting and unending. All crew members had to wear lifejackets at all times, awake and asleep, which added to the discomfort of Mundin’s backbreaking toil.

When the war ended in November 1918, Mundin went on deck. With a sense of joy and profound relief, he took the lifejacket off and threw it as far as he could into the cold North Sea. Having absorbed four years of sweat, grime and coal dust, it sank like a stone!

Lent is a time for asking: what are the things, attitudes and thoughts that we cling to, which hold us back from coming closer to the Lord? The things that stop us from being free, that anchor us to the ground and prevent us from flying?

These things are like Herbert Mundin's useless lifejacket. They weigh us down, oppress us and cause us to be downhearted, sad and uncomfortable because we wear them at all times -- asleep and awake.

And Lent is also a time for doing what we can to change what we can change, with God's help, so that we can enter more fully into the Easter Mysteries. The Lenten journey involves travelling with Jesus to Jerusalem and Calvary and reminds us that there is no other way into the Resurrection except through the Cross. St Rose of Lima put it this way: “Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.”

And Our Lord couldn’t have been clearer: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

May we all have a wonderful Lent!  

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