Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, Peace be with you!
As we begin this Holy Season of Lent 2023, I write to encourage you to take advantage of these 40 days to deepen your Faith, to find renewal in the Hope of Jesus’ Salvation for us and for all the world, and to be renewed in God’s Love for you and for all our sisters and brothers in Christ.
During this special Year of Priestly Spiritual Renewal and Prayer for Vocations, Lent provides us the opportunity to focus on our personal connection (communion) with Jesus. During the Lenten Season we are encouraged to let the Light of Christ, and our relationship with Him, shine in this world where there is so much darkness.
As I wrote in my Pastoral Letter, “Behold I am Making All Things New,” in announcing the dedicated diocesan year:
“I believe the need for spiritual renewal in general is becoming more and more necessary in light of the world situation we are all witnessing and experiencing. I am urging all our priests to join me during this year of prayer for spiritual renewal of ourselves; in addition, I am encouraging every member of the faithful to pray for a renewed faith for all of us. It is my fervent prayer that this Year of Priestly Spiritual Renewal will, in turn, lead to a renewal of the entire local Church through our revitalized love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and our following the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
The Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are meant to be more than acts of self-denial. They are opportunities to grow in our self-awareness of the ways each of us can be witnesses to the Light of Christ to those with whom we are making our lifetime pilgrimage. Pope Francis has written that “Lent is a favorable time for personal and community renewal, as it leads us to the paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
This year’s Lenten Season also comes during this historic moment as we participate in the diocesan “Synod on Priestly Life and Ministry”. Synodality is a way of traveling together as God’s Pilgrim People. Our Holy Father has reminded us that being a part of the life of the Church is nothing less than a synodal experience that involves the whole Church in prayerful listening to God’s Word and a time for profound interior discernment of God’s will for us. We journey together, respecting one another, listening, and learning from each other’s shared hopes and dreams, and consoling and encouraging our fellow travelers.
On Ash Wednesday we hear St. Paul’s encouraging words to his Family of Faith in Corinth (2 Cor 5:20–6:2) in which he teaches: “Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: “In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you… Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
Our salvation is not at some distant time in the future. St. Paul reminds us that now is the day of salvation. We are called to journey together now on the road that leads to us to be ever mindful of and grateful for our salvation, accomplished by Jesus’ Death and Resurrection, the cause of our Easter joy.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, please join me in making this year’s Lent “an acceptable time”, recognizing that we truly are a synodal Church guided by the Holy Spirit. Please pray with me in asking the Holy Spirit for the outpouring of His gifts—especially for courage, counsel, piety and understanding—so that, renewed by the grace God gives to us in these 40 Days of Lent, we can give joyful witness of our love for Jesus and one another to the world in which we live.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Paul J. Bradley
Bishop of Kalamazoo