My dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
As we continue our Lenten journey together toward Holy Week, I would like to share with you two occasions which recently reminded me of yet another reason why I am grateful for being your Bishop.
The two events, while on the surface quite different from each other, had something in common. They each resonated with faith. A strong faith that was apparent to those of us who were in attendance.
The first event was the Rite of Election of Catechumen, over which I presided. It is at the Rite of Election that the catechumen become members of the elect to be initiated into the sacred mysteries at the Easter Vigil.
The catechumen and candidates, along with their future godparents and religious instructors, gathered from all four corners of the diocese, to participate in this special Rite. The strong faith that I witnessed on the first Sunday of Lent was truly memorable.
The witnessing of adults who desire to become Catholic strengthens in a profound way the faith of those of us, who baptized as infants, did not make this conscious choice. All of us, however, are called upon daily to make choices that bring us closer to God.
The second event that I had the pleasure of attending was the Christopher Dinner. The Christopher Society are supporters of the Annual Catholic Appeal. Their strong faith is also apparent by the ongoing assistance that they give, both financially and through prayer, to the many ministries of the Diocese. Choosing to seek the good of others through their selfless example of faith, they also make daily choices in strengthening their walk with God.
This journey is not always easy. The path can be rough. We sometimes find ourselves in a desert. And much like Jesus in the desert, Satan, the tempter, seeks to divert us from our Heavenly Father’s plan. Fortunately, Jesus already experienced this path and showed us the way. (Luke 4:1-13)
Deserts are very hostile places. Recently I was in Peru and they are indeed deadly places, full of scorpions, poisonous snakes, scorching heat by day and freezing cold by night, to say nothing about the lack of water.
It is clear from scripture that deserts were places of encounter; places of renewal and places of testing. It is not unusual for God to test those He loves. He tested Noah. He tested Abraham. He tested Moses and the Israelites. He tested Mary and Joseph. He tests those He loves.
We are tested today. Difficulties surround us in our workplaces, in our homes and in society. Fortunately, Jesus remains the model, decisively rejecting temptation, turning to God‘s word to fight Satan, the Father of Lies. We are called to turn away from the temptations that this world sets before us.
For the catechumen and candidates, their time of preparation and their reception in the church at the Easter Vigil will not conclude their journey. Because, like each one of us, it is a lifetime journey and it won’t end until we see God‘s face. Like any other relationship, we have to work at it. The evil one would hope that we give into our weaknesses and become complacent. His devilish work is to turn our hearts away from God.
We foil Satan most effectively when we, in the imitation of Christ, focus more on God’s promise than on our own weaknesses. God is so much greater than any of our failures. It is God’s will that we all succeed in life, that we enjoy the bounty that God created for us. He wants only our happiness.
As we continue this Lenten season, in our joy today, let us pray––
Lord Jesus we love you. We adore you for all you were willing to undergo for our sakes. Help us always to unite our own hardships into your saving and redemptive cross. Amen
May your Holy Week be blessed. Sincerely yours in Christ’s loving sacrifice,
Bishop of Norwich