Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
We begin this season of Lent with the surprise announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s imminent resignation from office. Suddenly the world’s media has turned its attention to the question of who will the cardinals elect as the new pope next month. For us Catholics this is not a mere curiosity but a critical period of transition in the Church’s leadership for which we need to pray in sincerity of heart. I appeal for you to keep this intention continually in your prayers until the Lord blesses us with the new pope.
Christ the Lord was tempted and suffered for us. Come let us adore him. This verse is recited throughout the season of Lent. It invites us to be constantly aware that the Lord Jesus Christ offered up his suffering and death on the cross out of love for us, for our salvation, for all humanity, so that we can convert from our sins, receive forgiveness and live in God’s grace and love. It is only in this saving grace of the Lord that we are able to be reconciled and be at peace with one another as well.
The season of Lent is therefore not a time for pointing fingers at the sins of others nor for condemning others because of their guilt. On the contrary, we as followers of Christ,are called to remain in communion with the Lord who was tempted and suffered for us. In other words, grateful for God’s mercy in our own lives, we likewise pray for the conversion of sinners and offer up our difficulties in communion with the suffering of Christ in the firm hope that those who are in most need of God’s mercy may indeed experience the joy of conversion and reconciliation with Christ and his Church.
This spiritual warfare is not so easy for us to do. We are all naturally inclined towards praying for good people only and doing good only for people who deserve it. But the Spirit of the Lord Jesus in our hearts urges us to pray for the wicked man to turn from his evil and live (Ezek 18,32). Yes, we are called to pray for the conversion of those people who naturally repel us – people we would rather avoid and forget about like murderers, rapists, thieves, adulterers, drug pushers and addicts and all kinds of wicked people.
But it is only by remaining in communion with the Spirit of Christ who was tempted and suffered for us that we become people of real hope in a world that is so easily overwhelmed by wickeness and evil. It is so easy for us to internalise the violence in our society and world and to wish as much evil on others as we see being perpetrated in our midst. Let us unite in faith and fight our spiritual battle together with all the saints and martyrs in heaven and with our Blessed Mother Mary. Let us walk her path of faith to the foot of the Cross of Jesus and say: “Holy Mary, pray for us, and especially those sinners in the world who are lost in the darkness of their wickedness; pray for us now and at the hour of our death.”
God bless you all
Bishop Joao Rodrigues