The season of Lent in Australia is not only marked with ashes placed on our foreheads, but also the annual Project Compassion appeal.
For most of us who have lived our lives within the Catholic framework, the commission to live the next 40 days following Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount to take this time to reflect on the world around you, go without something that you usually take for granted, and then give generously to those in need, is traditionally realised in an Australian Catholic context by our response to this appeal.
The distinct little collection box that sits on a bench at home or is produced each morning by a teacher at school is a constant reminder that over these 40 days, we are challenged to go beyond who we are at the moment and become something more.
This year it fits in with our college theme that asks us all,“what are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?” The irony within the Christian framework is that we become more by becoming less. The Gospel that we read to the community on Ash Wednesday had another challenge from Jesus: “Take up your cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save their life will lose it, but anyone who loses their life for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel will save it.”
While prayer time takes us away from completing urgent tasks, giving something up diminishes what we would otherwise consume, and giving something away lessens what we have, in fact by doing all these things we become bigger, better versions of ourselves. Again, Jesus taught that, “If anyone wants to be first, they must make themselves last and servant of all.”
Project Compassion asks us to be generous and give of what we have to others who have not. To be selfless and put others before ourselves. Done reflectively, it also asks us to stop and look at the world beyond to discover why are there are people and places in need in the first place.
And so it challenges us to respond in action, not simply through the giving of money. But it all begins with Lent, and the humble little Project Compassion box that will accompany us through these 40 days. Please give generously and change yourself by changing the world.