Following is an excerpt from an excellent article by Archbishop Lori from the most recent Colombia magazine:
“There’s no doubt about it: Lent has somber overtones. It is, after all, a period of penitence, a time for coming to terms with our sins. This is not easy, especially as we tend to avoid thinking about our sins, or try to hide them, or make excuses for them.
Through this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has given us all an opportunity to rehabilitate Lent. He’s helping us think about it not as a time of misery but as a time of mercy. God does not play our game of sanitizing or making excuses for our sins but comes to meet us with his merciful love. “When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of his mercy,” wrote Pope Francis (Misericordiae Vultus, 3). “Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive.”
Lent is not a time for unhappiness but rather a time for us to experience a new springtime in our relationship with God and others. In fact, the word “Lent” comes from an Old English word for “spring”. ..God’s mercy is indeed the very foundation of the Church’s life. We encounter his love as we listen to his Word and participate in the sacraments, including reconciliation, which is often called “the sacrament of mercy.” Yet receiving and giving God’s mercy is not something we do apart from our daily lives, in some secret recess of our hearts. God’s mercy is not to be compartmentalized; it must shape every relationship, especially with those who are nearest and dearest. Thus, the mercy we encounter in the life of the Church must also be experienced in what we call the “domestic church” – that is, the family.
In a November 2015 general audience, Pope Francis described the family as “a great training ground for the mutual giving and forgiving without which no love can last too long.” Experience teaches that a family cannot long endure the trials and challenges of life absent a shared love that is generous, sacrificial and forgiving. In a word, our families need to receive the mercy of God, but they must also be where young people learn how to give and receive mercy.
This year, let’s not talk about a “long Lent”. Let’s talk instead about a joyful Lent, filled with God’s abundant mercy for ourselves and for our families.”