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A message from the bishop

A 40-day course correction

Lent reminds us how to live as Christians all year long
(April 2017)
 
My dear friends,
 
St. Benedict taught in his Rule that the life of a monk ought always to be a Lenten observance. (Chapter 49) We can extend this maxim to all God’s people and amend it to say that the lives of Christians ought to be a continuous Lent. If, however, we regard Lent as an extended time of self-deprivation and unpleasant spiritual exercises, this rule is not an attractive one!
 
But what is the purpose of Lent? It is to correct or “reset” our Christian life to its true course. It is to recover the proper place of prayer, liturgy, penance, fasting and almsgiving in our spiritual lives. These
components are to be present in Christian life at all times, not just the 40 days of Lent.
 
Lent demands an openness, indeed a summons, to conversion. When we come forward to receive ashes on our foreheads, we are invited to “repent and believe in the Gospel.” The traditional penitential practices of Lent set us on the right course.
 
The Church exhorts us to a greater emphasis on private prayer and public participation in the liturgy during Lent, so that we might recapture the rightful place that prayer and liturgical worship ought to have in our Christian life throughout the entire year.
 
Sharing what we have by giving alms (gifts of money, food and other items for the poor) spawns an interior conversion regarding the use and stewardship of our worldly goods. Fasting “attacks” the uncontrolled appetite for food and other pleasurable things, especially in a society like ours where overconsumption is blatant.
 
Lent then is a paschal journey that leads to and prepares us for Easter. Indeed, the Christian life and
life of the Church are entirely paschal – it is all about Christ’s death, resurrection and glorification by the
Father. We, individually and communally, are on a journey toward the eternal Easter. Seen from this perspective, Lent can be considered a paradigm for the life of a disciple and the life of the Church. What we experience more intensely for 40 days every year must give rise to new dynamism and energy in our lives, Sunday after Sunday, as we celebrate the Lord’s Day of Resurrection throughout our lifetime.
 
Celebrating Easter, the Eighth Day, the Day of Resurrection, is truly an awesome thing! The entrance antiphon for Easter proclaims: “The Lord is truly risen, alleluia. To him be glory and power for all the ages of eternity, alleluia.” The collect, or opening prayer, for Mass reminds us that God has conquered death through his only begotten Son and unlocked for us the path to eternity. Although, as Ash Wednesday solemnly reminded us, we are dust and unto dust we shall return, on Easter Sunday we solemnly renew our baptismal promises and profess our belief in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
 
Easter began a new manner of God’s presence in the world. After Christ poured out his blood on the cross, God poured out his love upon the world through the Holy Spirit. The Risen Christ left us signs that assure us that he will walk with us on our journey through life: the waters of baptism, the laying on of hands that bestows the Spirit’s anointing and, above all, the bread broken for us and the cup of the new and eternal covenant poured out for us. Jesus comes to us wherever Christians gather in his memory. He remains with us in word and sacrament.
 
Through the paschal mystery, we have been buried with Christ in baptism so that we may walk with him in newness of life. Preface II of Easter boldly announces: “Through [Christ] the children of light rise to eternal life and the halls of the heavenly Kingdom are thrown open to the faithful; for his Death is our ransom from death, and in his rising the life of all has risen.”
 
As we look beyond Lent to the 50-day Easter season, let us joyfully prepare to live out the promises of our baptism, our renunciation of Satan and his works, and our pledge to serve God in his holy Catholic Church. In this way, may we be heralds of the Gospel, truly salt and light for the world! 
 
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak