Bishop Alberto Rojas
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Dear friends, peace and wellbeing to you and your families! Ash Wednesday introduces us to the 40 days of Lent with a black mark on our foreheads, and we will close this holy season with the sprinkling of holy waters at the Easter Vigil; two points that help us determine the journey of who we are and of who we are called to be. We are invited to journey together with Jesus in a 40-day retreat, going through the darkest deserts of our times between ashes and water, out of our darkness into the Light of Jesus, and moving us from sin to grace. Lent is an opportunity for all of us to grow in our spiritual lives and to improve our relationship with Jesus Christ and one another, allowing the Holy Spirit to lead and strengthen us to overcome evil and remain in God’s love.

These words may sound just like beautiful poetry, but the truth is that they are much more than that; because for them to be meaningful, we need to be opened and willing to be changed and transformed for the better with God’s help. So, how can we remain together, respecting each other’s human dignity and remaining faithful to Christ Jesus as we walk each day through a world that is plagued with minds full of condemnations and judgmental attitudes? Only when we are opened and willing to welcome God’s love in our hearts and minds.

As human beings we continue to stumble and fall, many times dragged down by the illusion of riches and power, pleasure and pride, humiliating and hurting others on the way, pretending to be more than them. Eventually, we realize that we hurt ourselves even more in the end, because the truth is that we are all children of the same loving and compassionate God who has sent his Son Jesus to show us the way of love and Peace.

This Lent our Lord Jesus invites us to get away from the mundane noises and spend more time in reflective prayer, while also practicing some fasting and almsgiving. These three Lenten practices are excellent ways to keep us in the spirit of sacrificial love and mental renewal, repenting from our sins, going for confession, and receiving God’s mercy and forgiveness. Let us allow Jesus to embrace us and transform us. Let us take courage and not be afraid of our own limitations, for Jesus already knows our deepest desires better than we know ourselves. Let us trust Him; I know He understands us!

As we receive the ashes, we are reminded that we are dust and to dust we will return at the end of our lives on earth. But while we are still alive in this world, let us pray for the grace of God to recognize the face of Jesus in each person we encounter on our way, regardless of who we might think they are, or whether they agree with us. The crisis we are facing around the world is due to the lack of God’s love, without which, we will never be able to overcome our differences. One good first step is to be welcoming and hospitable with those we don’t like and look at them as children of God instead of condemning them and demonizing them. Jesus welcomed everybody, especially sinners, and sinners we all are!

Dear friends, this Lent, let us pray for one another. May the walk of Jesus carrying the heaviness of our sins on his Cross serve us as a guide and source of strength to carry our own crosses without complaining. May we allow the darkness of our sins to be washed away by the holy waters of rebirth, that we may be able to be prepared and willing to receive the new life in the Resurrection of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ!