By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
Our first Covenant with God began in the moment of our Baptism. Whatever our vocation in life, we all live this common ground, and at the beginning of Lent the Church, the Body of Christ, proclaims the Lord’s faithful and undying love for us, and the challenge to come back to him with all our heart.
It is the season of the renewal of our vows of Baptism that will be our pledge at the Easter Masses. After his own Baptism and temptation in the desert, Jesus walks through our lives as he walked through Galilee two thousand years ago, “this is the time of fulfillment, repent and believe in the Gospel.”
Whatever our vocation in life we are all called to repentance. We can never become complacent or indifferent to the urgency of the Lord’s call in our lives. The call is to turn away from sin, to die to self, to resist the temptation of selfishness, and self-centeredness that can be deadly to all other relationship in our lives. We are able to die to self in this life-giving way because Jesus Christ has made this possible at the core of our lives in his life giving death and resurrection.
In the midst of this grass roots annual renewal the Church finds herself in the midst of the year of consecrated life, and in the middle of the process of broad-based consultation on the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the modern world. All of it works together because although we are hearing the call of the Lord at a deeply personal level, we are all connected to one another in family, work places, neighborhoods, and communities of faith. Whatever change happens in an individual’s life, for better or for worse, is going to affect others in our circle of life.
The Diocese of Jackson is now participating in the worldwide preparatory document on the Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Modern World that will contribute to the dialogue, discernment and decision-making later this autumn during the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family with Pope Francis presiding. (Through Monday, March 16, we are inviting the Catholic faithful to participate in this preparatory document through the diocesan website. See page 1 for details.)
The Synod is pastoral in its purpose and this becomes clear by examining some of the chapter headings in the preparatory document.
Looking at Christ: the Gospel of the Family
Looking at Jesus and divine teaching in the
The family in God’ salvific plan
The family in the Church’s documents
Indissolubility of Marriage and the joy of sharing
The truth and beauty of the family
Mercy toward broken and fragile families
Confronting the situation: pastoral perspectives
Proclaiming the gospel of the family today in
Guiding engaged couples in their preparation
Pastoral care for couples civilly married or living
Caring for wounded families: separated, divorced
and not remarried, divorced and remarried,
single parent families
Pastoral attention towards persons with
The transmission of life and the challenges of
the declining birthrate
Upbringing and the role of the family in
The call of the Lord in our lives during Lent permeates the particular circumstances of our vocations and responsibilities. Marriage is unique in that it best represents the undying love of Jesus Christ for all of humanity, but especially the Church. This is sacred. Jesus Christ is not ‘yes’ today, and ‘no’ tomorrow. He is ‘yes’ forever.
Man and woman in marriage strive to embody the heart and mind of Jesus Christ by raising up permanency and fidelity in their sacramental covenant. Two weeks ago we gathered in our Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle for World Marriage Day with couples who were celebrating 25 to 71 years of marriage. The renewal of their covenant in God mirrors what we are about in Lent.
As male and female complement one another in marriage, the vocations of married life & religious life compliment one another in the Church and in the world. Marriage in its essence reveals the Lord’s active love for his church every moment of every day, the here and now of life in this world. Consecrated religious life in its essence reveals that ultimately we are all destined for heaven so that even the blessings of marriage and family life can be sacrificed for the blessing that surpasses all that we know in this life, our eternal home and salvation.
We also know that many single people serve the Lord in ways often known only to God. They who are single are not just spending time before getting a real life. Rather we know that the call of the Lord can be just as real in a way of life that enjoys greater freedom and flexibility. They are in the marketplaces and public squares of our world with an opportunity to bring the Lord out onto the fringes of societies, as Pope Francis is fond of saying.
Another way in which we can appreciate the diversity of lifestyles and gifts in the Church is the opportunity to be inspired by each other. The daily sacrifices that support our faithful living, the ordinariness of our lives graced by God, and the joyful spirit of our calling are signs of the Word of God made Flesh. Often we need one another to stay on the path as we follow the Lord each day. Let us pray for one another as we walk further along on the Lenten journey.