Dear Students, Parents, Alumni, and Friends,
This Lent is very special for me for a couple of reasons. I am approaching my 20th anniversary of priesthood in June which invites me to reflect with gratitude on the priestly ministry I share with so many people. Secondly, the pastoral leadership of Pope Francis has been inspiring and reminds me to focus on the essential elements of our faith in living my ministry as a priest. Our Holy Father is calling us back to the basics of the Gospel message which are rooted in the words and deeds of Jesus.
In his letter announcing the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis writes: "The season of Lent during this Jubilee Year should also be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God's mercy." Lent is the season in which we take an inventory of our personal and spiritual lives and assess our relationship with God and one another. It is a time of grace and an opportunity for growth. Identifying sins and shortcomings is the necessary first step to receive and celebrate God's mercy.
I think it is all too easy to forget how merciful God truly is. We have dozens of stories of Jesus revealing God to be compassionate and loving. Perhaps we hear the same biblical passages all too often and fail to actually listen to them deeply. Despite our errors and misjudgments, God is always there. Pope Francis has been hammering away at the same message since the first day of his pontificate encouraging us to be joy filled Christians aware of God's merciful love.
In a new book just published in January, Pope Francis gives an interview with a Vatican correspondent who reports the conversation in question and answer format. The Pope shares personal testimony of experiencing God's mercy and how it is truly the foundation of how we should approach God. The Pope says: "Mercy is the first attribute of God. The name of God is mercy." Pope Francis reminds us that mercy is the most important characteristic of God. The Pope continues: "There are no situations we cannot get out of; we are not condemned to sink in quicksand, in which the more we move the deeper we sink. Jesus is there, his hand extended, ready to reach out to us and pull us out of the mud, out of sin...into which we have fallen."
Pope Francis acknowledges God's limitless mercy when he shares: "The most important thing in the life of every man and every woman is not that they should never fall along the way. The important thing is always to get back up, not to stay on the ground licking your wounds. The Lord of mercy always forgives me; he always offers me the possibility of starting over. He loves me for what I am, he wants to raise me up, and he extends his mercy to me."
With such words Pope Francis has called all Christians to live this Lent confident of God's mercy. Knowing how much we are loved and forgiven by God prepares us to joyfully celebrate Christ's resurrection. It is my prayer that all members of our Saint Michael's College community will experience in a profound way the limitless mercy of God revealed in Jesus.
In the weeks before Ash Wednesday, a group of Edmundites, faculty, staff and students considered the readings of the Sundays of Lent and extracted the statement which appears on banners hanging outside on our campus Chapel above the main lobby entrance and facing route 15. This Lent our focus statement is "Stand firm in the Lord and become a new creation." We have also planned a number of devotional activities outlined on our web page and we have again made available a daily blog containing reflections on the scripture readings from the liturgies in Lent and Holy Week accessible at http://smclent.blogspot.com/.
If you are interested in joining us at Saint Anne's Shrine from June 26th to July 1st for a 5-day silent directed retreat to experience God's mercy, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
I hope you will join us in prayer this Lenten season as we prepare for the glorious celebration of Easter.
Rev. Brian J. Cummings, S.S.E. ’86
Director of Edmundite Campus Ministry