Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

As we began Lent with the mark of ashes and the commitment to holiness through prayer, penance, and almsgiving, we were faced with the horrific evil of the shooting and killing at the Marjory Stoneham-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The surviving students who are demonstrating for better controls on the sale of weapons of destruction are a current example of the young leading us to take the necessary actions to free our world from evil.

One of the iconic pictures of that day was of a mother, with her forehead marked with ashes in the form of a cross, looking for her child in the chaos of that moment. You can see the worry, anxiety, and fear on her face, and you cannot miss the mark of Christ’s Cross on her forehead. That cross was much more than a religious mark of the beginning of Lent. It was a powerful reminder that the violence was part of the suffering of Christ on the Cross. He was there as the wounded Redeemer come to lead His People through the violence and pain with the power of his Cross: the love, mercy, and compassion of God. He was there to gather in those who were killed, to comfort the wounded and the mourning, and to guide everyone through the horror of that day.

Every year on the Second Sunday of Lent, we read a gospel account of the Lord’s Transfiguration in which the glory of God in Jesus is revealed to Peter, James, and John. He tells them not to tell anyone about it until he has suffered, died, and been raised from the dead. Only in the context of the Paschal Mystery would they understand and be able to speak of the power and the glory of God’s mercy and love. We live the Paschal Mystery every day, in Baptism we were immersed in it. Like that mother, we have the ability and responsibility to bring the power of Christ’s Cross to the suffering, the fear, and the violence of our world. If you think this is impossible,

remember that the power of God’s love and mercy raised Jesus from the dead. If we trust in that same power we can certainly do what seems impossible in the eyes of the world. Perhaps that’s how we are called to carry Christ’s Cross this Lent, not on our foreheads only, but in the action of our lives. Use this Lent to seek ways of nonviolence in your life. Learn to trust in the power of God’s love and mercy within you.

The readings of daily Mass this past week were readings about forgiveness. I was thinking of them when I heard of someone who asked a student to forgive the shooter. The student responded he was not ready for that yet, quite an understandable human response. Forgiveness is hard work. It is God’s work through the Cross of Christ. It takes time. Just because it is difficult does not mean we should not do it. Pray the Our Father three times a day this Lent. Pay particular attention to the petition for forgiveness and seek the power of God to transform us and all victims of violence into agents of forgiveness in the face of violence and evil. This is the power of the Cross that sets us free and gives us hope.

May God’s Peace be Yours,
Msgr. Jay