Apr 2, 2008
At the beginning of Lent, I wrote a pastoral letter to all in our diocese. The title of the letter was taken from the words of St. Paul that we heard in the second reading at Mass on Ash Wednesday, "We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."
My hope was to amplify the invitation of Jesus Christ himself, an invitation to reconciliation in two aspects. The first is the gift of personal forgiveness of sins in the sacrament of penance and reconciliation. The second is the opportunity to extend the reconciliation of Christ to members of our families, parishes and communities who may feel separated from the love of God because of particular hurt they have experienced.
I am grateful that so many of you heard and accepted this invitation to reconciliation during the weeks of Lent. In parishes all across our diocese, thousands of Catholics accepted responsibility for sin, confessed their guilt and received the gift of absolution from a priest. I am one of you who received this powerful sacramental gift. Others have been moved to apologize to those whom they may have hurt or to accept apologies that have been offered. Some have approached our diocesan tribunal for help with the circumstances of their marriages. I have heard from several people who are still hurting too deeply to approach the sacraments, but they have heard the invitation and the desire we have that they not be isolated.
At Easter we come to understand, once again, why profound and ongoing reconciliation is possible. In Jesus Christ, God has conquered sin and the effects of sin, including death itself. Because of the resurrection, we know that Jesus' promise of forgiveness and life is more than wishful thinking. A power is offered to us in the risen Christ beyond anything that we humans could do for ourselves. In the risen Christ, we are given the gift of hope, a gift that saves us from being satisfied with our current experience of sin and its effects. More than looking forward to eternal life, we long to experience it even now. This experience is possible in the celebration of the sacraments, which extend the power of Easter into the lives of the faithful all year long.