I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
To open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
It is the middle of March. In just two weeks’ time, we enter Holy Week. How have you been a light for the nations this Lenten season? Have you participated in Living the Eucharist or a Life in the Eucharist Retreat? Did you join us at the Eucharistic Congress on March 16,17? Has your prayer life increased your closeness to God? Has it opened your eyes to the blindness of all the secular distractions which may impede your faith journey? Has your attention to ‘living without’ created a greater hunger for our Lord through the Eucharist? Have you offered yourself to God at His table and then flourished His kingdom all through the week to bring out those in confinement through parish outreach or various educational programs about mental health, human trafficking, or the Long Sleeve Relief Drive?
These questions I ask are not specific to our Lenten season. While the Lenten season is a time of greater focus on the richness of our faith through prayer, sacrifice and almsgiving, it is a gifted season to follow Christ. And, the season of following Christ is all seasons. The season to live within God’s covenantal love begins at our Baptism and continues throughout our entire life.
During a recent catechesis, Pope Francis reminds us that Christ himself is the center and fullness of the whole of Scripture. Jesus Christ is always at the center, always. The presence of Christ gives us the “Good News’ which converts and transforms, if we are in relationship with God, if we are open to hear His Word.
Within the foundation of our faith, hearing the Word becomes the essence of our being. We breathe in Christ; His Word is living. The Word of Jesus Christ is alive and touches our heart. St. Augustine wrote, “The Gospel is the mouth of Christ. He is seated in heaven, but he has not stopped speaking on earth.” We must listen to the Gospel and we must give a response with our life. Pope Francis says we will be converted and transformed by it, and therefore capable of changing ourselves and the world. “Why? Because the Word of God enters through the ears, goes to the heart and passes to the hands in order to do good deeds.”
During this season of Lent, we have many within our Diocese who are converted and converting, transformed and transforming. There are the catechumens-more than 600 of them-who will become Catholics at the Easter vigil. Their journeys of faith; their spiritual thirst is a light for the nations. Members of FAITH are addressing the opioid crisis in Volusia County and minister to those imprisoned with addiction as people full of God’s dignity and grace. Individuals are participating in Catholic Charities of Central Florida educational outreach so that they open their eyes from blindness to better understand mental health and bring God’s light of compassion to those in darkness. Finally, we are blessed with so many jubilarians who grasp us by the hand to open our heart to God’s covenantal love. Each one of them had a spiritual thirst, a passion to serve. And so they have for twenty-five or fifty years. Some are the fathers of our Diocese, like Fathers Richard Walsh, Paul Henry, Peter Henry. Others are new to the diocese bringing their genuine love of God to us from different parts of the world. Others have grown up with us, like Father David Scotchie, and chose to serve the people of God through his vocation to the priesthood in the Diocese of Orlando.
Reverend Raul Caga, St. Mary Catholic Church, Rockledge
Reverend Gerard Cunningham, retired
Reverend Archie Faustino, St. Joseph Catholic Church, Winter Haven
Reverend Sebastian Nzabhayanga, St. John Vianney Catholic Church, Orlando
Reverend David Scotchie, Most Precious Blood Catholic Church, Oviedo
Rev. Paul Wolkovits, retired
Reverend Ralph Argentino, retired, assists at Corpus Christi Catholic Church, Celebration and Holy Family Catholic Church, Orlando
Very Reverend Bradley Beaupre, C.S.C., retired
Reverend Ronald Beauchemin, M.S., assists at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church, Orlando
Very Reverend Paul Henry, Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe
Reverend Peter Henry, St. Ann Catholic Church, DeBary
Reverend Michael O’Keeffe, assists at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church, Ocala
Reverend Tito Rojas, retired, St. Isaac Jogues Catholic Church, Orlando
Reverend George Rosario, CSsR, in residence, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, New Smyrna Beach
Rev. Fred Serraino, C.S.C., retired
Very Reverend Richard Walsh, St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church
Pope Francis, in his message for World Youth Day 2018, said, “From the certainty that God’s grace is with us comes the strength to take courage in the present moment: the courage to carry forward what God asks of us here and now, in every area of our lives; courage to embrace the vocation which God reveals to us; courage to live out our faith without hiding or diminishing it.”
May the Lord give breath to us, His people, and the Holy Spirit to we who walk on His earth.