LENT 2013: To Speak and Act with a Renewed Heart

From: Jean-Louis Plouffe
Bishop’s Office Bishop of Sault Ste. Marie

In his opening address to the Fathers of Vatican II Council in 1962, Pope John XXIII said: “Not only must we keep the faith as though we were preoccupied by the past, but we must joyfully and without fear undertake the task required of us by the times. We must welcome the Council as a call to enter into a renewed experience of the  presence of Christ in the heart of humanity.” Fifty years later, these words have not lost their meaning. They are still challenging for us. They help us discern what could be for us personally, and “as Church,” a good Lenten season in this Year of Faith.

Vatican II was meant to be an update of the Church in order to better pass on its message to the women and men of that time. Again we are invited to an update to accept the challenge of a “new” evangelization. This evangelization will truly be “new” if, for the love of Church, we dare venture off the beaten track and think outside the box, allowing for new pastoral practices. For this, we have to take a new look at the world and the Church, and risk new ways and means. When all is said and done, we need to speak and act with a renewed heart.

Faced with the new challenge required by the spreading of today’s Gospel and the somber reality of a Church in decline for many reasons, one can indeed feel overwhelmed. Lent is the prime time to be open to the inspiration of the Spirit so that we can welcome the reassuring presence of the Risen One.

We can always dream of ideal circumstances to evangelize, yet the human heart will always be divided. One side resists the proclamation of the Gospel, the other longs for it. We must find the words to reach out to the side of the heart that awaits Christ. To do this, our best guide is our faith in Him which gives meaning to our life and permits us to envisage the future with confidence. God will always be, both disturbing and reassuring. This lent, will we allow ourselves to be disturbed, to recognize with courage and humility that we may very well be the first obstacle for evangelization of our time and for the rejuvenation of our Church? “The work of new evangelization” declares Benedict XVI, “consists in presenting once more the beauty and perennial newness of the encounter with Christ to the often distracted and confused heart and mind of the men and women of our time, above all to ourselves.”

Lent, in this Year of Faith, invites us to a moment of honest truth in our lives. Above all, let us acknowledge that we, laity and clergy, are the first who are in need of conversion! We are in need of conversion in how we engage in dialogue with those who have left our  parishes. We are in need of conversion in how we welcome those returning after having been away for a period of time. We are in need of conversion to take on the goodness and generosity, the patience and respect of “the mere servants who have done no more than their duty” (Luke 17.10).

Let us take advantage of the “acceptable time” (2 Cor. 6.2) given to us to turn toward Christ allowing us to once again be fascinated by God. It is from our relationship with the One who dwells within us that we become the evangelizers of a new day. May our hearts be awakened on our journey toward Easter!

Fraternally yours in Christ,
February 6, 2013  

Jean-Louis Plouffe
Bishop’s Office Bishop of Sault Ste. Marie

 

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