Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In his 2022 Lenten message to the Church, Pope Francis invites us to reflect upon Saint Paul’s words in his letter to the Galatians: “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all” (Galatians 6:9-10).
The Holy Father challenges us to reflect upon the urgency of using the time that God has given to us in a productive manner by sowing goodness in our world with a view to a future harvest. And Lent, Pope Francis continues, is the opportune time for us to recollect our thoughts and to move forward with resolve, seeking to fulfill our baptismal promises by making the pattern of Jesus’ life our own through our authentic response to his call to discipleship.
Through his invitation to place our trust in the Lord as the surest means of responding to the apostle Paul’s appeal, Pope Francis provides us with some practical reminders of how we might achieve this noble end:
“Let us not grow tired of praying” … We need to pray because we need God.
“Let us not grow tired of uprooting evil from our lives or of asking for forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance,” knowing that God never tires of forgiving us.
And “Let us not grow tired of doing good in active charity towards our neighbors,” the surest means of reflecting the life of Jesus in our own lives.
This year during our Lenten journey, we have all been given a unique opportunity to sow seeds of goodness in our Church to reap a bountiful harvest. The entire People of God, including our own local Church, have been invited to participate in the preparatory phase of the Synod of Bishops that is being convened by Pope Francis in October 2023, entitled a Synod on Synodality.
A “synodal” Church implies a way of being and of working that engages a more grassroots, collaborative effort among the members of the Christian faithful as we all seek to grow in awareness of the presence of God and engage the mission of evangelization. A “synodal” Church takes the time to discern the path forward that the Holy Spirit is calling us to embrace as together we seek to build a Church where all are welcome, valued and sent forth as ambassadors of Christ. A “synodal” Church highlights the fact that each member of the Body of Christ has been entrusted with gifts for the building up of the Church – “good” that we ought never tire of doing on behalf of one another.
I encourage you to participate in the synodal process through listening sessions in your parishes and through online opportunities that have been generously provided to all of you who desire to share your thoughts, your dreams and where you believe the Holy Spirit is calling the Church at this time in its history. The Diocese of Scranton’s online survey can be found on the “Synod on Synodality” page on the Diocese of Scranton website at dioceseofscranton.org.
As Pope Francis has reminded us, a “synodal Church” is above all a Church that listens: “It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. The lay faithful, the bishops, the pope: all listening to each other, all listening to the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17), in order to know what He is saying to the Church” and how best to move forward in faith.
Finally, one of the great gifts given to us by the Church to assist in our response to the Lord’s invitation to do “good” is found in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As we have done for many years, all of the parishes of the Diocese of Scranton will participate in The Light Is On For You. Every Monday evening during the Lenten season, beginning on the first Monday of Lent, March 7, and continuing through Monday of the last full week of Lent, April 4, confessions will be heard in every parish from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
My friends, our resolve to deepen our faith and to do good on behalf of our brothers and sisters is needed today more than ever. May we open our hearts to this blessed season of Lent and all of the opportunities that we are given to deepen our trust in the ever-present grace of God, that alone can sustain us in our journey of faith as his disciples.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton