Bishop Noonan reflects on Lenten forgiveness

If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:31b

 

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

During this season of Lent, our focus is on God.  We seek to be like Zaccheus; turning our heart from materialism to solidarity; or like Mary Magdalene, who finds covenantal love within Jesus; or the spirit of Peter whose loyalty to Jesus wavers and yet he becomes the foundation of the Christian church; or the love of John who takes Jesus’ mother as his own; or the openness of Mary to God’s invitation, no matter the difficulty.

Lent is a time to face our weakness.  It is a time for us to confront the parts of ourselves which we may not want to see; to truly understand our limitations, our frailty, our sinfulness.  It is a time for us to reconcile that nothing we have or do is because of our own ability, but always of God, to return to Him who made us.  We are called to renew, reinforce our covenantal relationship with our loving God through prayer, sacrifice and charity.

Jesus came to save us from our self-centeredness and isolation.  He saves us from the destructive attitude of becoming a victim or a lackadaisical in our faith. Jesus frees us from negativity and asks us to listen to our heart and learn how to discern God’s love; to know His mercy and to offer His mercy, His forgiveness to each person.  Pope Francis said, “For all our sins, our limitations, our failings, for all the many times we have fallen, Jesus has looked upon us and drawn near to us.  He has given us His hand and shown us mercy.  All of us can think back and remember the many times the Lord looked upon us, drew near and showed us mercy.”  Jesus sends us to serve, conscious of having been forgiven.  This is the source of our joy!  We have wounds yet we put at the center the One who can heal these wounds, Jesus Christ.

I have met the poor, the hungry, the naked and imprisoned at our parishes as I visit with you.  Some of you are homeless, not without a roof over your head, but homeless in the sense that you are disconnected from God.  Some of you are hungry, not because you lack physical food, but because you deny yourself the gift of the Eucharist and place other things as priorities.  Some of you are naked, not without clothes, but clothed in greed and jealousy.  Some of you are imprisoned, not in a county or state or federal prison, but imprisoned by the bars of prejudice or disappointment or hatred.

We seek to become a Church capable of serving our Lord in those who are hungry, imprisoned, thirsting, homeless, naked and infirm…a service that is born within the conversion of hearts, recognizing that the poor, the naked, the sick, prisoners and the homeless have the dignity to sit at our table, to feel “at home” among us, to feel part of a family.  We cannot fully attend to God’s people until we attend to ourselves.

Pope Francis says, “Whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words, with new meaning for today’s world.”  Jesus Christ, the Gospel, the bread, the Eucharist, the humble Body of Christ is the holy Church of each day, mirrored on the faces of the poor, the faces of men and women who struggle, who suffer, the faces of you and me.

Offering mercy, forgiveness is the gift of the Eucharist.  The Eucharist strengthens our compassion for one another and teaches us to trust the love of others.  Offering forgiveness can deepen the bonds of love. If God is for us, who can be against us?  May our attention to prayer, sacrifice and charity this Lenten season increase our relationship with God and deepen the bonds of love. Pray for our catechumens as they learn of God’s inimitable love from us.  May our offer of this love yield the kingdom of heaven in our midst.

Bishop Noonan
Diocese of Orlando
February 14, 2018