Dear Friends in Christ,
Lent is often seen as a time of penance and self-sacrifice as in “giving up something for Lent.” These are worthy practices, yet Lent is also a time to reflect upon the magnanimous love of God for each one of us in sending His own divine Son to suffer and die for us so that we might be freed from sin and death. This is why the Cross of Christ will always be a symbol of divine love both to the world and for each one of us as individuals.
Christ came into the world because the bonds of love between God and humankind had been broken by sin. Only God could heal the rupture caused by sinful humanity. Jesus’ death reverses the brokenness, pain, emptiness, and death brought forth by our frequent failures to love. Jesus died so that we might have freedom from sin and have life eternal. He came to save the world through the power of love.
Our whole Lenten season is a continuous reflection on the power of Christ’s love for us and how we are to return that love to Him. Jesus shows us that love is selfless sacrifice, and sacrifice is the language of love. That is why the Holy Eucharist is source and summit of our Christian life – because it is the Lord’s fullest expression of love for us. In the Eucharist we see “Love Made Visible,” the theme for this year’s Bishop’s Annual Lenten Appeal. Love for neighbor is a decision that we make to treat others with respect and concern, to put the interest and needs of our neighbors on a level with our own. Still, love demands a practical and concrete expression. This is exactly what our annual Lenten Appeal tries to demonstrate each year.
The commitment that you will make through your gift will touch thousands of lives in ways we may never know. The vocation of marriage and the families of our Diocese will be strengthened through the Office of Family and Respect Life Ministries. Catechists, teachers, and sport coaches will receive training and support through the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis and Sports Ministry; Catholic schools and after-school programs will find their support so that children and young people can grow in the beauty of our Catholic faith. Ministries on college and university campuses will be strengthened and supported so our sons and daughters will know that the Church is still there for them on Campus. A homeless mother and her unborn child will be provided with hope, food, and shelter at Lourdeshouse Maternity Home. The Lenten Appeal enables ministries that individual parishes cannot supply.
Every gift, when given with love and a gratitude for the many gifts that we enjoy, helps to enable Christ’s presence to be experienced by those most in need, particularly the poor and marginalized. Your gift is a priceless gift, no matter the size, as it will bring about the positive change that Jesus calls us to create in the world. Being faithful disciples of Jesus requires no special talent or special gifts. We simply need to use our spiritual and temporal gifts to serve one another. And if God has given us certain natural abilities, we also want to be good stewards of those abilities to serve others in the Body of Christ. Our only requirement is to have a servant’s heart.
I deeply appreciate the expression of your love and your generosity to this year’s Appeal. May your Lenten sacrifice deepen your love for Christ and His Church!
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend Ronald W. Gainer
Bishop of Harrisburg