Winter 2023 Four County Catholic
'Lord, I Love You'
As we enter the season of Lent, we take on the 40-day journey as an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the Lord. It is a contemplative time of intense soul-searching. It is also an opportunity to think beyond ourselves. As Christians alive in our faith, we turn with love and compassion during this season of hope toward our brothers and sisters who most need our help. More than any other time of the year, Lent reminds us that love for one another is how love is ultimately defined at the cross of Jesus.
“Lord, I love You” — these were the final words spoken by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, who passed into eternal life on Dec. 31, 2022. In reflecting on his pontificate, I am reminded of his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), which explores living the charity which the love of God should compel in each of us. In his writing, he helped us to recognize that God’s relationship to the world is best understood as a love story, not as a relationship of power that expresses itself in a contest of wills.
Ash Wednesday this year falls two days before the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” remind us of the fragility of life that so many of our brothers and sisters around the world face in reality on a daily basis.
At turbulent times like these, it helps to remind ourselves that the Church as a community of faith is a living missionary body. We are here to serve others, as Christ continuously inspires us to do. In the remarkably efficient words of St. Peter describing Jesus as our model — "He went about doing good." (Acts 10:38) How perfectly simple and powerful a message. This remains our aspiration, whatever the challenges of this increasingly complex world. We are here to serve. Here to love. Here to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. This is our universal calling. This is the path to a fulfilling life. It is toward this mission that "our faith calls us to action."
Our moral responsibility is defined by our faith, our values, the teachings of the Church and the example of Christ’s love for us. It is our responsibility from a social perspective to pray for and support organizations dedicated to bringing relief to those in need. Sitting on the sidelines is not an option. Not when there are members of our human family residing in the margins. The hungry, the displaced and the discouraged are all counting on us.
Our sacrifices strengthen our respect for those less fortunate. In our awareness of their need, we are united with them as sisters and brothers in God’s family.
This year’s Annual Catholic Appeal, One Faith One Family, is a wonderful opportunity to express our thanks for the blessings we receive in our lives and to extend ourselves to help those in need to survive and preserve their dignity. By lifting others, we are all lifted.
I thank everyone who so generously supports and voluntarily helps the many ministries in the diocese, all of whom work so hard to restore dignity to the lives of our brothers and sisters who may be hungry, suffering or without a roof over their head.
During this sacred season of Lent, may we pray for those most in need and may we renew our true Christian spirit in the knowledge that we love our neighbor because we have first been loved by God.
May the last words of Pope Benedict be forever on our lips, “Lord, I love You.”
Sincerely yours in Christ's love,
Michael R. Cote
Bishop of Norwich