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Cultivate a relationship with Christ this Lent

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

March 6, 2019

Dear Sisters and
Brothers in Christ:

Lent is a truly graced time to take stock of our ongoing journey of conversion and transformation in Christ. We desire to cultivate an intimate relationship with Jesus making His presence in our lives real and vibrant so that we might follow Him more closely while supporting one another in our common pilgrimage of faith.

This Lent, we might reflect on a question that the bishops’ Retreat Director recently asked: Is Jesus for us a person, or just a personality, a celebrity, a cult figure? There’s a big difference between the two. Personalities might include people like Oprah, even Elvis Presley or any number of people who have a following today. A personality is someone who has name recognition, but not someone with whom we can easily strike up a personal relationship. There are plenty of personalities out there today. An intimate relationship develops with a person, not a personality.

Unfortunately, for many of us, Jesus is a personality and not a person. He is the eminent figure in Church doctrine. He is the one whose memory we celebrate in the liturgy even proclaiming the Eucharist as His Real Presence. However, without developing a personal relationship between ourselves and Jesus, He remains external to us, outside of ourselves, touching our minds, but not our hearts. He remains a remnant of the past because we instinctively place twenty centuries between ourselves and Him.

Yet, Jesus says, “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt.28:20). The Resurrected Christ is alive and present, not physically as He had been, but His presence today is even stronger and more real. Christ is not only beside us but dwells within us. Therein lies our hope and confidence during these troublesome times.

Particularly during our Lenten journey, the Church asks us to focus our attention on Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. These spiritual disciplines are indispensable means to strengthen our personal relationship with Jesus. Additionally, I hope that you avail yourself of the Lenten programs and liturgies provided by your parish. These will help you grow in love and knowledge of our Lord.

May our hearts be renewed as we encounter Christ ever more intimately this Lent. As St. Paul announces to us on Ash Wednesday: “Now is a very acceptable time” (2 Cor. 6:2). Let us pray for one another this Lent and always.

Faithfully yours in Christ,
Most Reverend
Terry R. LaValley
Bishop of Ogdensburg

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