Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we begin this holy season of Lent, my desire for each and every one of you is that you come to know and receive the love of Jesus Christ, and that you make a firm commitment to grow in holiness.
When I visit parishes, I often ask the young people, who here is going to become a saint? Many don’t know how to answer, and the parents are surprised by the question. But this is a question we all have to ask ourselves. Are we going to be saints? Are we taking steps to grow closer to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Are we trying to discover God’s will for our lives?
My brothers and sisters, Jesus and the Father love you and they want to give their love to you in the Holy Spirit. It’s important for you to say “yes” to this great truth. If we truly trust in Jesus, he will change everything in our lives, but this will not happen without you. You have to open your heart to conversion. And even then, becoming a saint doesn’t happen overnight, and it is not without struggle.
This is why Christ gave us the sacraments. They nourish and strengthen us as we travel the sometimes difficult road to holiness. When we go to Mass and receive the Eucharist, and when we approach the sacrament of confession, we are meeting Jesus, encountering his mercy, grace and strength.
Being a good Catholic isn’t about saying the right things, having the right ideas, making grand sacrifices, or even strictly about keeping a moral code. At its core, our faith is about knowing and being transformed by a person—Jesus Christ.
With confession, Jesus extends us an invitation to grow closer to him by admitting our shortcomings and asking for his forgiveness. Although we have damaged our relationship with God by sinning, the beauty of confession is that we are able to receive his mercy and forgiveness, and restore our relationship with the Lord.
I urge each and every one of you to go to confession this Lent. If you have not been to confession in years, now is the time. Now is the time to prepare your hearts to celebrate Easter. Do not be afraid of the sacrament of mercy. Do not be afraid to change your life. That is what our Lord wants most for each and every one of you.
Jesus only invites, he never imposes, even though he longs to give you his love and mercy. It is up to you to cooperate with Jesus, to open your mind and heart, and to follow him.
I wish you all a blessed Lent,
Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila