Dear brothers and sisters,
In a few days, we will receive the Church’s call to a period of preparation for the commemoration and celebration of the passion, death and resurrection of our Savior. Our last Synod was an invitation to holiness. What better opportunity than the time of Lent to work on our holiness and our conversion and to re-establish our relationship with Christ and the community of faith? Ash Wednesday confronts us with our humanity, with our misery. Lent confronts us with our present change in preparation for our future encounter with Christ.
I want to share with you some excerpts from a magnificent reflection written by Father Cipriano Sánchez.
Lent is a time to convert to truth, holiness and reconciliation. In short, Lent is a time to commit. To convert is to commit to Christ with my holiness, with my social dimension of evangelization. Do I have this? Do I want to have it? Do I employ the means to have it? If so, I’m fine; If not, I’m wrong. Because a person who calls himself/herself a Christian and who is not authentically committed to Christ in his/her holiness to evangelize is not a Christian.
The inner dimension of humankind must be sought insistently in our life. Let’s not forget that everything comes from a conversion effort; everything is born of our personal effort to convert the soul to God, to direct the mind and heart to our Lord.
What consequences does this conversion have on us? What does it mean to convert to the truth? Obviously, the first truth that I have to convert to is the truth of myself; that is, who am I? Why am I in this world? But, at the same time, conversion to the truth is also an opening to that truth that is God our Lord, to the truth of Christ.
What experience do I have of Jesus Christ? Is it someone alive who demands from me, or is it simply a series of catechism questions? The importance the person of Christ has for men and women knows no limits.
Converting to Christ means making Christ present in my existence. That experience is something very important, and we have to ask ourselves: Is Christ really present in my whole life? Or is Christ simply in some parts of my life? When this happens, how important it is that we realize that perhaps I am not being as Christian as I should be. Converting to the truth, converting to Christ means taking Him and making Him present in every minute.
There is a second dimension of this conversion: the conversion to holiness. Am I really a person who tends towards spiritual perfection? What is my intention towards the Christian vision of the virtue of humility, of charity, of simplicity of heart, or in the fight against laziness and vanity? Obviously, the fundamental dimension is to put my life before God to be convinced before God, to be profound before God, to be open and courageous before God.
It could be that in my life this effort for holiness was not a real effort, and this happens when we want to be fickly holy. The fickle is that person who, wanting good and seeing it, does not employ the means to realize it. I see good and I say to myself: how beautiful it is to be holy! But to be holy you have to be convinced, deep, open and brave, because we remain in a dream, and dreams … are just dreams.
Do I really want to be holy? Do I try to train myself to convince myself in my Christian formation at a moral and doctrinal level? Is my Christianity deep, open and courageous in testimony?
There is a third dimension of this conversion: the dimension of reconciliation. From this point springs up and saturates the third conversion to which Lent invites us. The first injustice that is committed is not man’s injustice towards man, but man’s injustice towards God. What is the first injustice that appears in the Bible? The original sin. And from the sin of Adam and Eve, what sin is born? The second sin, the sin of Cain against Abel. From the sin of man against God is born the sin of man against man. There is no sin of man against man that does not come from man’s first sin against God. There is no sin of one man against another that is not born from a heart from which God has long since left. If we want to transform society, the first thing we have to do is reconcile our heart with God. If we want to re-Christianize the world, change humanity, the first thing we have to do is transform and re-Christianize our heart. Are my criteria those of the Gospel? Is my behavior that of the Gospel? Does my family, spousal, social and apostolic life stick to the Gospel?
This is true holiness, which is only achieved by people who have really made the experience of Christ primary in their existence: people who seek and yearn for the experience of Christ, and who do not make excuses for not doing it. It is no excuse to say that I don’t attain the experience of Christ because of my own character, my own obligations, my own health, because if in these aspects of my life I do not know how to attain the experience of Christ, I am not being a Christian.
Lent is a time to convert to truth, holiness and reconciliation. Let us reflect on this, make commitments and ardently seek that experience, that holiness and that apostolic commitment; never say no to Christ in our lives, never put our criteria before those of Christ. Let us be Christians not only in name but in fact and in truth.
In Christ Jesus,
+Bp. J. Alberto Morales, OSB, DD