Though this penitential season of Lent is essential for those seeking to be incorporated into the Body of Christ, the Church (our catechumens and candidates), through the Sacraments of Initiation, these days of Lent can afford those already united with Christ a period in which to ask a necessary question: Have I listened to the word of God and obeyed it? Simply put, we call those times when have heard the word of God and disobeyed or ignored it, “sin.” As we acknowledge in the Confiteor, we sin – both “in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.” A refusal to live out the word of God, with whom there “is no such thing as alteration, no shadow of a change,” is a refusal to keep Jesus’ command to “love one another as I love you.”
So, we are called to more willingly undertake the penitential practices of increased prayer, fasting, and alms-giving in order to attune our minds and hearts to the law of the heart, which is love. For sure, the journey of a sincere examination of conscience and an honest confession of sins is not easy for us to undertake. We would rather make excuses for ourselves and focus instead on our positive attributes and accomplishments, but that’s not the purpose of these days. Therefore, as a reminder, our annual Lenten Penance Service with Confessions will take place in our church on Thursday, April 11, at 7 p.m. Several guest priests will come to assist us.
If we are to make our Lent more fruitful and do so with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, we should do so together, because we are called to be one in the Body of Christ. As Saint Paul teaches us, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (I Cor. 12:26). I recall what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said one Ash Wednesday: “Each person is aware that he or she does not face the penitential journey alone,” he said, “but together with many brothers and sisters in the Church.”
To our catechumens, who seek the grace of baptism and a share in the life and love of the Blessed Trinity, we who have already been baptized into Christ, set out with you, during this holy season of Lent, into the spiritual desert in faith, to beg the Lord to “increase our faith.”  Faith is this personal adherence – which involves all of our faculties – to the revelation of God’s gratuitous and ‘passionate’ love for us, fully revealed in Jesus Christ.” In the quiet of your hearts you have heard the Lord invite you to enter into his friendship. We are grateful for your willingness to open yourselves to his life-changing love. May your anticipation of the coming Easter spur you on to give yourselves ever more completely to Jesus Christ, holding nothing back from Him.
To our candidates, who have already been washed clean in the waters of Baptism, who seek to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church, you seek to do so during a difficult moment in the life of the Church. On the holy Vigil of Easter, you will be received into the full communion of the Church. Let these memorable days serve to teach you – as they teach even those of us who are “cradle” Catholics – that the Church is not our Church but God’s Church, which remains under the leadership of our earthly Pastor, the Bishop of Rome.
It has been widely pointed out that before Pope Emeritus Benedict did so, a Pope had not resigned from the Chair of Peter since Pope Gregory XII did 598 years ago, to put an end to the Western Schism. It has likewise also not escaped everyone’s attention that this occurred prior to the Protestant Reformation which gave rise, over the course of the centuries, to the various ecclesial communities from which our catechumens have come. There is something in this to consider, and the important recognition of Blessed John Henry Newman, who was once an Anglican priest, comes to mind. He once noted, “To be deep in history, is to cease to be Protestant.” I mention his quote not to demean the communities from which you have come; they have some of the means of salvation – but not all of the means of salvation the Lord Jesus has given us. In these ecclesial communities you may have studied the Sacred Scriptures, and were introduced to Jesus and received the grace of baptism, and learned to pray. For each of these graces we give thanks to God. Now you’ll be enriched by the great grace of the Eucharist.
In Confirmation, the Holy Spirit leads you through these ecclesial communities to the Church that the Lord established on the rock of St. Peter. Your decision to embark on this road was surely not easy, and maybe originally not even planned; but the Word of God has brought you to the moment when you requested full communion with the Church, so that you may not only hear the Word of God but put it fully into practice. Thank you for your courage and fidelity to what you have heard!
I thank (y)our sponsors for their incredible witness to the truth. They have come to understand that there is no action more beneficial – and therefore more charitable – towards one’s neighbor than to break the bread of the word of God, to share with him the Good News of the Gospel, to introduce him to a relationship with God: evangelization is the highest and the most integral promotion of the human person. I ask them to continue to walk with our catechumens – who will soon be numbered among the Elect – and with our candidates, for the remaining Sacraments of Initiation. In the days, months, and years to come, they will look to you for examples of both strength and comfort as they strive to stand daily with and for the Lord.
Together, then, may we turn to the Lord constantly in prayer, asking Him to help us make the most of these Lenten days. May we become more faithful to his word, to “the perfect law of freedom,” so that we will indeed “be happy in all [we] do” (James 1:25).