Christians are called to seek reconciliation with God in spiritual preparation for Easter, says Archbishop José Gomez in his second pastoral letter.
The Archbishop of San Antonio issued his letter, titled The Tender Mercy of Our God, on Ash Wednesday.
“Only the sincere and mutual search for forgiveness and reconciliation can bring us the peace and satisfaction we seek in our world today,” reads the letter, which is rooted strongly in Scripture and Church teaching and aims to provide the reader a clearer understanding of sin and forgiveness.
“Our Father loves us in ways that we could never imagine possible. No matter how far you have wandered astray by sin, the Father is ready to forgive you—if you will only turn to him in repentance,” he continues.
“Reconciliation is the heart of the Gospel. It is the meaning and purpose of Christ’s work, the work he continues today through the ministry of his Church,” he says. “This is the good news of the Gospel. The Gospel is a message of reconciliation—that by Christ’s passion and resurrection God has forgiven all our trespasses and set us free from sin and death.”
Speaking from his personal experience, the archbishop writes of the importance of confession as a personal encounter with God and an opportunity to experience God’s mercy.
The archbishop lamented the fact that the sacrament has been on the decline in the “emerging culture of revenge” in the United States. He attributed this to the lost sense of the sacred in the world.
“Increasingly, we live in a highly secularized environment in which there is no room for God or for considerations of what might lie beyond this material world,” he posits. “In such an environment, traditional beliefs — in the reality of sin, in God-given laws and moral norms, in each soul’s accountability before God — have come to be seen as outdated and even wrong and hurtful to the individual.”
“My brothers and sisters, it is time for all of us to rediscover this living sign of the Lord’s forgiveness and our reconciliation with God,” he urges. “Like the Eucharist, this sacrament has the power to heal and change us. It has the power to heal and change our world.”
Archbishop Gomez also points to the community as a place where people find “a true culture of peace and reconciliation.” The city’s deep Catholic roots, he says, “promote a belief in the dignity of the human person.”
The letter also coincides with the closing of the Jubilee Year, declared by Pope Benedict XVI in celebration of the 275th anniversary of the founding of San Fernando Cathedral. The city of San Antonio shares the same anniversary.
There will be a special Mass at San Fernando Cathedral on March 4th at 5 p.m. to mark the end of the Jubilee Year.
The archbishop also addresses priests, urging them to make the sacrament more widely available. “We need a new preaching and a new catechesis to bring people back to this fountain of the Lord’s grace and healing. This will call for even more creativity and self-sacrifice from you,” he acknowledges.
“Your dialogues with penitents are sacred conversations that must always be marked by deep respect and sensitivity, as you guide them to full honesty in the disclosure of their sins, and to complete openness to God’s healing grace,” he tells his priests.