Dear Diocesan Family,
The holy season of Lent is once again upon us. It is a special time in the Church year when we are invited to stir into flame the gift of God in our lives. It is appropriate that this holy season always coincides with spring — as we experience new life in nature, so should we experience new life in our own lives as we strive for that personal relationship with Jesus.
Our diocesan theme for Lent 2020 is “Walking with Christ.” This theme is a reminder that Jesus is always inviting us to journey with Him. The ashes (the dirt) that mark us on Ash Wednesday are an excellent reminder of what our Lenten practices are meant to cultivate: the seed of God’s life within us! Each one of us is an earthen vessel created by God and in which God dwells through the grace of Baptism. Each one of us is God’s beloved son, God’s beloved daughter, yet sadly this fact is often missed and overlooked in our everyday (and busy) world.
With that in mind, the Church from her earliest days has invited her members to use the 40 days ahead to reconnect with God, neighbor, and self. This is the meaning behind the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and charitable works. Prayer waters the Holy Ground on which our lives are planted. Fasting connects us with this Holy Ground, helping us to not take it for granted or abuse it. Charitable works till the Holy Ground and make it fruitful in its produce.
This is what I want to invite us to do this Lent: to discover anew the meaning of the gift of life and the difference that can be made when you and I recognize who accompanies us on the Holy Ground on which we walk.
The holy season of Lent is also an important time in the Church’s calendar when we prepare to welcome those who have begun the journey to be received into the Church at the Easter Vigil. It is at this sacred celebration that we bless the Easter water and welcome people to our family of faith through the waters of Baptism. They enter the journey born again with a new flame of faith, hope, and love. This year’s theme reminds each of us of the importance of embracing our own journey with the Lord with each new day, with each new dawn of spring. You and I are challenged to profess our faith not just with our lips, but even more by the way we live out our faith — a way that leads others, be they neighbor, visitor, or inquirer, to know Christ.
I would like to encourage you to follow the Lenten disciplines the Church sets before us for our benefit. Again, prayer, fasting, and charitable works are the disciplines of this Lenten time that assist us in nurturing our life in God. I would like to encourage you to enhance your prayer life by attending daily Mass during Lent and other devotionals such as Stations of the Cross, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and praying the Rosary. Reading of Sacred Scripture and spiritual reading can be our compass and roadmap for the journey. Lent is also an excellent time for family prayer: take time to say grace before meals or choose one night a week to pray the Rosary together or to read a Bible story.
Most important are our own efforts to turn away from sin through the Sacrament of Penance (Confession). This Sacrament of Healing and Renewal will be available in all our parishes during Lent and especially on the Monday of Holy Week.
Once more, I would like to invite you this Lent to rediscover Jesus by making time for him in your life through prayer, study, spiritual reading, the Sacraments of Eucharist and Penance, and charitable works. For those interested, I invite you to join me during Lent for the 7 a.m. Weekday Mass at the Cathedral on East Onondaga Street in Syracuse. Let us choose to walk ever more closely with Jesus and in turn, invite others to enter the journey as well.
Please know that I will be praying for each of you as we journey on our first Lent together.
ABSTINENCE: All Catholics who have reached their 14th birthday are bound to abstain totally from meat on Ash Wednesday, all Fridays of Lent, and Good Friday.
FASTING: All Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are bound also to observe the Law of Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting, that is, eating less, involves limiting oneself to a single full meal and avoiding food between meals. Lighter nourishment may be taken on two other occasions in the course of the day.