Bishop Bambera’s Lenten Message 2024 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In his 2024 Lenten message to the Church, Pope Francis invites us to reflect upon the desert experience that is so prevalent in the life of Jesus and throughout the sacred scriptures. “Lent is the season of grace in which the desert can become once more – in the words of the prophet Hosea – the place of our first love (cf. Hos 2:16-17). God shapes his people, he enables us to leave our slavery behind and experience a Passover from death to life.” 

Essentially, the sacred season of Lent encourages us to step apart from the frenetic pace of life that has consumed us and to reflect – in the desert of our hearts – what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and to embrace his life and saving grace.  In the midst of a world fraught with upheaval and pain as a result of wars, political and social polarization, and far too many “isms” and “phobias” that have proliferated throughout the globe, resulting in discrimination, hatred, pain and suffering, we need to step apart to assess our own role in contributing to the breakdown of peace and respect for the lives that God has placed within our own.  “If our celebration of Lent is to be fruitful,” Pope Francis asserts, “the first step is to desire to open our eyes to reality.”

In the liturgy of Ash Wednesday every year, we listen to the words of the prophet Joel, who sets the stage not only for the season of Lent but for our response to the Lord’s call to discipleship.  And he does so by challenging us to change our lives – not merely by performing religious gestures and practices – but by peering intensely into our hearts to insure that our spirit is honest and pure and open to the transforming power and presence of God.  Saint Matthew, in that same liturgy, reinforces the words of the prophet as he calls us to pray, fast, and to give alms in support of the poor – not because such behavior will make us righteous – but because such acts for the true follower of Jesus are simply the consequence of faithful lives rooted in Jesus, who teaches us how best to live.

Pope Francis puts these three pillars of our lives as followers of Jesus into perspective. “Today, the cry of so many of our oppressed brothers and sisters rises to heaven. Let us ask ourselves: Do we hear that cry? Does it trouble us? Does it move us?  …  It is time to act.  …  Love of God and love of neighbour are one love.  …  For this reason, prayer, almsgiving and fasting are not three unrelated acts, but a single movement of openness and self-emptying, in which we cast out the idols that weigh us down, the attachments that imprison us. …  In the presence of God, we become brothers and sisters, more sensitive to one another.  In place of threats and enemies, we discover companions and fellow travelers. This is God’s dream, the promised land to which we journey once we have left our slavery behind.” 

By providing greater opportunities for prayer and reflection, Lent then becomes both a time for personal conversion and a favorable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ as it challenges us to consider the gift and blessing of the Sacrament of Baptism in our lives. 

On the First Sunday of Lent, we will welcome catechumens into the ranks of the elect; those from our midst who have begun the journey of conversion and who will soon experience the saving power of Jesus in the Easter mysteries of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.  Their “yes” to the Lord’s call gives us hope and should encourage us to recommit ourselves to the vows that were made at our own baptisms.  Their “yes” reminds us that we too are called to look beyond ourselves to something more in life. 

As we continue to give thanks for the singular gift of God’s presence in the Holy Eucharist during the third year of Eucharistic Revival in our land, I will once again celebrate a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament in each of our twelve deaneries throughout the weeks of Lent.  I look forward to praying with many of you as we seek God’s healing grace. 

Finally, I encourage all of us to avail ourselves of the Lord’s mercy and healing in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

My friends, in the desert of our hearts, Lent calls us to reflect upon our relationship with God and to recognize that God is ever faithful and present, particularly amid the challenges that envelope our broken world and fragile lives.  May we be humble enough to open our lives to God’s merciful presence and walk with him on the life-giving journey of conversion and renewal. 

Please know of my prayers for a fruitful observance of Lent.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton


Bishop Bambera’s 2023 Christmas Message

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Eight hundred years ago as the Church celebrated the latter days of Advent and prepared to commemorate the birth of Jesus, a cherished tradition in our lives as Christians was born.  Traveling from Rome to Assisi after having just received approval from the Pope for his brotherhood, Saint Francis stopped along the way in the little Italian town of Greccio.   Having visited the Holy Land, the caves in Greccio reminded Francis of the countryside of Bethlehem.  So he asked a local man named John to help him celebrate with the faithful of the town the holy night of Christmas by replicating the original scene in Bethlehem. 

Saint Francis’ biographers described in detail what then took place in Greccio.  “On December 25th, friars came to Greccio from various parts, together with people from the farmsteads in the area, who brought flowers and torches to light up the holy night.  When Francis arrived, he found a manger full of hay, an ox and a donkey.  All those present experienced a new and indescribable joy in the presence of the Christmas scene.  The priest then solemnly celebrated the Eucharist over the manger, showing the bond between the Incarnation of the Son of God and the Eucharist.  At Greccio, there were no statues – just a manger, an ox and a donkey; the nativity scene was enacted and experienced by all who were present.”

That Christmas night, eight centuries ago, began the tradition of the Nativity scene that we maintain in our churches and in our homes.  For all its familiarity and the tendency that we may have to diminish its significance in the face of so many other competing symbols and traditions associated with Christmas, we would do well to pause at some point in this sacred season to reflect upon the message that lies at the heart of this treasured scene.  Like the faithful people of Greccio, Italy, look beyond the statues or figurines and imagine yourself in Bethlehem in a cave, with animals, straw, dirt and a promise provided by a newborn baby boy. 

In God’s plan to save his people, Jesus didn’t set himself apart from the ordinariness of human life.   No, Jesus immersed himself in the human condition of our world, for all its beauty and peace, its brokenness and pain, its sin and suffering.  And he did so for a reason:  In coming into our lives as a baby born in a manger – hardly a sign of power, self-sufficiency or pride – God lowered himself so that we could walk with him and he could stand beside us, not above or far from us, to lead us on the pathway to his promise of life and peace. 

All too often, however, we are quick to leave the cave of Bethlehem and travel other pathways to achieve meaning and purpose in our lives.  We set aside the message of salvation proclaimed throughout the ages by the life, love, mercy and forgiveness of Jesus.  We’re reluctant to heed his invitation to walk in his footsteps.  Then we wonder why our lives are so unsettled and peace in our hearts, our homes and our world appears to be so elusive.  We wonder why God can’t provide us with a way out of suffering and pain in Israel, Ukraine, far too many places throughout our world, at our borders, in our neighborhoods, in our families and in our hearts. 

Brothers and sisters, the good news and blessing of Christmas is that God has already provided us a way forward with hope if we are wise and humble enough to embrace the message of Bethlehem and the birth of his Son.

May we pray during these cherished days for peace in our troubled world, especially in the Holy Land where our Prince of Peace was born.  And may we open our hearts to the grace of God and the great mystery of salvation won for us through the simple story begun in a cave in Bethlehem that continues to be the world’s true and lasting reason for hope! 

With gratitude for the privilege of serving as your Bishop and with prayers for a holy and blessed Christmas for you, your family and all you hold dear, I am

​​​​Faithfully yours in Christ, 
†Joseph C. Bambera
Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton


Previous Letters

Notice to the Roman Catholic Faithful of the Diocese of Scranton regarding Saints Francis and Clare Progressive Catholic Community

Notice to the Christian Faithful of the Diocese of Scranton Regarding Mr. James Thomas Tracy

Statement of Bishop Bambera on Appointment of Timothy C. Senior as Bishop-designate of Harrisburg April 25, 2023

Bishop Bambera’s Easter Message: Turn to the Risen Jesus for hope and peace April 5, 2023

Bishop Bambera’s March for Life Letter 2023

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera’s 2022 Christmas Message

Pennsylvanians for Human Life Respect Life Breakfast November 5, 2022

Bishop Bambera’s 2022 Lenten Message: “Let us not grow tired of doing good!” February 24, 2022

Statement of the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, Regarding Invasion of Ukraine Feb. 24, 2022

Bishop Bambera’s 2021 Christmas Message

Bishop Bambera’s Letter for World Mission Sunday October 21, 2021

Life is a gift to respect: A message from the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera September 28, 2021

Statement of the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, on the 20th Anniversary of the September 11th Terror Attacks September 10, 2021

Bishop Bambera’s Letter to the Faithful regarding Delta Variant August 6, 2021

Dispensation of Mass Obligation to End August 15 in Diocese of Scranton July 15, 2021

Bishop Bambera’s Letter to the faithful, welcoming them back to Mass May 27, 2021

Statement of the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera on Verdict in Trial of Derek Chauvin April 20, 2021

Bishop Bambera’s 2021 Easter Message April 1, 2021

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera’s Letter to the Jewish Community for Passover March 26, 2021

Statement of Bishop Joseph C. Bambera Regarding COVID-19 Vaccines

Bishop Bambera’s 2021 Lenten Message March 4, 2021

Bishop Bambera’s Statement on the appointment of Rev. Joseph G. Marina, S.J., Ph.D., as President of The University of Scranton

Bishop Bambera’s Statement on the Inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. January 20, 2021

March for Life 2021 Letter January 13, 2021

Bishop’s Statement on appointment of Rev. Thomas P. Looney as President of King’s College January 9, 2021

Bishop Bambera’s Statement on Appointment of Larry J. Kulick as Bishop-elect of Greensburg December 18, 2020

Statement Of Bishop Bambera On McCarrick Report November 16, 2020

World Mission Sunday October 15, 2021

Respect Life Sunday October 4, 2020

A VOTE FOR LIFE: A message from the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera September 17. 2020

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera’s Reflection on George Floyd’s Death June 5, 2020

Planning for the Future: What to Expect When Public Masses Resume

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord March 25, 2020

Diocese of Scranton Coronavirus Update March 16, 2020

Statement of Bishop Joseph Bambera on Current Immigration Situation July 18, 2019

Bishop Bambera’s Statement on USCCB’s New Polices on Child Protection June 27, 2019

Bishop’s Statement on Shooting at Congregation Chabad Synagogue April 29, 2019

Bishop Bambera’s 2019 Easter Message

Diocese of Scranton Statement on Ss. Francis & Clare Independent Roman Catholic Community June 30, 2018