Bishop Eric Menees
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday – a Holy Day in the Church calendar when we are reminded of our mortality with the words: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Ash Wednesday also marks the first day of the Season of Lent, when the faithful are invited to prepare spiritually to receive the Risen Lord on Easter Sunday.
During the season of Lent, all Christians are encouraged to journey both inward and outward. Inwardly, Christians are invited to be even more intentional about setting time aside for prayer. Of course, we are to do this daily - all of our lives - but during the season of Lent, that prayer is done with particular attention to the inward examination of our lives and honest self-appraisal. Just as stated in the Collect for Ash Wednesday, God has created all things and hates nothing that He has made. Therefore, as creatures of God, we are not hated by Him or kept at arm's length. However, our self-indulgent appetites - our selfishness - separates us from God, and therefore from the experience of His Grace in its fulness. Self-examination is never easy, but it is always necessary if we hope to bridge that gulf that exists as a result of our sinful lives.
During the Season of Lent, Christians are encouraged to partake of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in which we meet with our priest, confess our sins, seek counsel, and receive absolution. Of course, sacramental reconciliation is in addition to private acts of reconciliation. The promise of Christ is that forgiveness of sin is ours if we ask with a sincere and contrite heart, and intend to amend our lives.
The inward journey of Lent is also marked by acts of self-denial. Self-denial is intended to help us remove distractions from our lives, and to instead concentrate on our relationship with God. I want to encourage all members of the diocese to take sincerely that call to self-denial. Too often, we take the easy path saying, “No meat on Friday,” for example, and fail to remove the major obstacle. Perhaps gambling has become important in our lives; or perhaps we sit in front of a TV or computer for hours - time that could have been spent in prayer and study are spent in self-indulgent isolation and separation. Of course, the list could go on, and on, and on. One traditional form of self-denial is that which Jesus himself demonstrated: Fasting. I invite the diocese to fast one day a week, and to take the money that would have gone toward food to be put toward some form of outreach to the poor and hungry, who go without food not as an act of self-denial, but rather of necessity. When you fast, dedicate your fast to a loved one who doesn’t yet know the Lord, or to someone whom you would like to receive a special blessing.
The outward journey of Lent is marked by acts of self-sacrifice and service to others. I want to encourage the diocese to volunteer their time and talent to different ministries, both inside and outside of the church. The opportunities are endless for service, but if you would like specifics please see one of your clergy, who will be more than happy to set you up.
I pray you all a very Holy Lent!
Thirty-nine Articles of Religion
XVI. Of Sin after Baptism
Not every deadly sin willingly committed after Baptism is sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after Baptism. After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin, and by the grace of God we may arise again, and amend our lives. And therefore they are to be condemned, which say, they can no more sin as long as they live here, or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.