Bishop's Lenten Message

Dearest Sisters and Brothers,

Peace and blessings in the Name of Jesus our Lord and Most High Priest;

As we prepare to enter into the Holy Season of Lent, I thought it would be appropriate to share some reflections on this special time of the Church year. Tomorrow (Wednesday, February 17th, 2021), we begin our Lenten Journey into the metaphorical desert with Ash Wednesday. Lent is traditionally a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It is also a time when we prepare ourselves for the mysteries of Easter. The Forty Days of Lent are intended to represent Jesus' own time of fasting in the desert, preparing himself for ministry.

Preparing for the journey ahead, many feel that they have to uphold certain obligations. I honor these heartfelt obligations as long as they are truly done from the heart and not out of some external pressure or fear that if you cannot meet these obligations you are somehow failing God or that your soul will be in mortal danger.

Our Lord Jesus Christ never forced anyone to follow him. And, in fact, he had some harsh words for religious leaders who imposed their own man-made so-called spiritual regulations.

I often relate that I grew up in a home without much Christian influence and that my early life in faith was decidedly anti-Catholic. With that understanding, after my conversion to Catholic Christianity, it took me a while to warm up to certain faith traditions.

While the Church I represent is fully Catholic, Apostolic, Sacramental, and Liturgical, we don't maintain a legalistic approach to certain traditions, making them obligatory to the point of being sinful if neglected. Our Church, for instance, doesn't enforce "Holy Days of Obligation" or obligatory fasting days, such as during Lent, or abstaining from meat on Fridays. We don't find it helpful to guilt folks into attending church or pressuring them into compliance. We attend church out of our own love of God and an inward calling to serve Him. It is God who places a sense of moral obligation in the hearts of the faithful.

Over the last few weeks, I've written more than one gospel reflection that was critical of the Pharisees creating and enforcing man-made laws as spiritual commandments. Such we feel are the modern commandments to fast and abstain during Lent. In our flavor of Catholicism, we fast and abstain because of an inward calling rather than out of legalistic obligation.

Please understand that we are not against, in any way, the idea of fasting or abstaining from things for pious reasons, nor are we opposed to such good and spiritually enriching traditions. We simply don't find it appropriate to legislate pious activities, elevating them to such importance that the very salvation of our souls hinges on our acquiescing to these man-made regulations.