2017 Diocesan Lenten Message
Dear People of the Diocese,
In today’s gospel reading we heard the Lord Jesus teach his disciples that: “No one can serve two masters:” and we heard him admonish them to: “… strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, …”. This coming Wednesday we will begin the liturgical season of Lent; traditionally, a time when we are invited to re-examine who it is we serve in our day to day life and to recommit ourselves to striving for the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the time tested methods for carrying out this self-examination and recommitment: Prayer being the means by which we allow God to be the master of our busy lives; Fasting being the exercise in self-discipline needed if we are to allow God to be our master; and, Almsgiving being the manifestation of our striving on our Master’s behalf to make His kingdom and His righteousness present in our world.
In 2015 and 2016, Pope Francis invited the Church throughout the world to make a 24 hour period from Friday to Saturday of the third week of Lent a special time of prayerfully being with the Lord through participating in Eucharistic Adoration and celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As the celebration of this “24 hours for the Lord” bore some beautiful fruit in parishes of this diocese, I encourage all our parishes to try to schedule some time for Eucharistic Adoration and for the reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation during that same time period this year (Friday March 24th to Saturday March 25th). It is my hope that this might be a time of prayer and penance in our diocese especially offered to God for the healing of all those who have been victimized and scandalized by sexual abuse.
For 50 years now, the Share Lent Collection in support of the work of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has been a specific way that the Catholics of this diocese and, of all the dioceses of Canada, have given Lenten alms to assist those most in need. Again this year I encourage everyone to sacrifice what you can and give as generously as you are able to this special collection that will be taken up in our parishes on the weekend of the 5th Sunday of Lent (Saturday April 1st and Sunday April 2nd).
These past 2 years, Lent has also been a time when we have especially prayed for God’s blessings upon our Diocesan Pastoral Planning process. In their responses to the second Diocesan Pastoral Planning Survey that was sent to all the Catholic communities of our diocese in September 2016, many communities shared good news on the work and initiatives that were helping to make their faith communities ever more vibrant and healthy. However, many also noted major challenges that were still present in their communities - challenges that will require reflection, prayer and special effort to address and overcome. The Diocesan Pastoral Planning Advisory Committee has met with representatives of some of these communities in an effort to better understand the challenges that they are facing and to assist them in their efforts. I think that the intercession and the concluding prayer of the General Intercessions that are being offered for the success of our Diocesan Pastoral Planning Process at Sunday Mass are a major reason for the progress that has been made and will be a major source of grace for the work and the healing that still need to be done.
In this year’s Message for Lent, Pope Francis wrote: “ …Lent is a favourable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our neighbour. The Lord, who overcame the deceptions of the Tempter during the forty days in the desert, shows us the path we must take. May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need.” Asking that you join with me in seeking to make this Lent such a favourable season of renewal for each of us and for our diocese, I remain,
Yours in Christ,
Bishop of Corner Brook and Labrador