At the Beginning of Lent

17 February 2021
Ash Wednesday

Dear brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Tokyo:

At the Beginning of Lent

A year ago, we started the season of Lent under uncertain circumstances. From that day on, we have continued Church activities while observing various precautionary measures to protect all life, especially taking steps not to put in danger the lives of our brothers and sisters.

We were made aware of the importance of taking care of each other and supporting one another as we walk with anxiety through the darkness.

One year has passed and we observe Ash Wednesday once again. The season of Lent has begun.

At the beginning of Lent, the prophet Joel calls out, “Return to the Lord, your God.” Lent is indeed the time to examine the roots of our faith. Now that we are facing various difficulties in our life of faith, let us not forget to return to its very source.

Joel writes that it is the Lord who is “merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love” to whom we will return. In living out our faith, we imitate the Lord as we strive to be a merciful person. We strive to be a patient person. We strive to be a compassionate person.

Our faith is being challenged. Now that it has become difficult to gather together, there are things that were once normal for the life of the Church that has changed. Among them, we have to address the issue of how each person could protect, practice, and nurture their faith.

Certainly, having restrictions on liturgy and activities does not mean that the Church community has collapsed. In the midst of facing this crisis, we are reminded to be aware and to keep in our hearts that we are all united together in faith. United in prayer, and in solidarity in faith with our brothers and sisters building up the body of Christ, let us shine out of darkness with the light of Christ, the source of life. As the Lord promised when he sends off his disciples, he will always be with us until the end of time (Matthew 28:20).

During Lent, the tradition of the Church calls us to examine our faith while emphasizing the three pillars of “prayer, fasting, and works of charity.” Unlike the ordinary mass offerings, donations during Lent are sacrifices offered as a fruit of temperance and is an expression of one’s participation in the works of charity of the Church. We would like to ask for your kind cooperation in offering donations with selfless love during these forty days.

Moreover, as it is written in the Bible, we believe that “the fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful” (James 5,16). We pray unceasingly. While taking various precautionary measures to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no point in having a Church in this world unless we include our spiritual response in our fight against COVID-19. Let us persevere in prayer. In a special way during Lent this year, we remember our friends in the Church of Myanmar, looking back to the many years we have supported each other, and let us continue to pray for peace and stability in Myanmar.

Lent is also the time to journey with those who are preparing to receive baptism. Together let us examine the roots of our faith, encourage each other even during these difficult times, and continue to fervently walk the path of faith.

Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, SVD
Archbishop of Tokyo