The dynamism of following Jesus these 40 days


Photo by James A. McBride


In photo, Bishop Galante receives ashes from Deacon Leo McBlain.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I am writing to you on Ash Wednesday, 2012.

I have a great love for the season of Lent because of the powerful graces God offers us during these 40 days.

The opening prayer for the Ash Wednesday Mass, in its new translation, speaks very much to me in setting the scene for these 40 days.

It says: “Grant O Lord that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service so that as we take up battle against spiritual evils we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.”

This prayer reminds us that our faith and self-restraint lead us to a campaign of Christian service. Fasting, prayer and penance are to empty ourselves of all that is selfish, sinful and obstacles in us so that we may bring the love of Jesus to our sisters and brothers.

This time is not meant to stay on an inner focus. Our ongoing conversion should bring us to reach out to our sisters and brothers. Therefore Lent is a dynamic time. It’s a time for us to go with Jesus into the desert for 40 days. There Jesus in his humanity faced the various temptations that are part of our humanity: the temptation to the satisfaction of the flesh, especially for him as He struggled with hunger and the temptation to circumvent God’s plan by declining his messianic mission through seeking to express it in a triumphal way. (As the Gospels say, Jesus was tempted by Satan asking Him to jump from the temple and be saved by angels and to kneel before Satan and have power over all the nations).

Rather Jesus accepted God’s plan that salvation come through his offering of self through his Passion and death on the cross.

As we accompany Jesus in these 40 days, we look at our own temptations and weaknesses. We are meant to surrender with Jesus to the will of the Father by dying to self so that we may live with Jesus for others.

I find this season of Lent a particular gift. I have been on dialysis for two weeks, four hours a day, three days a week. I’ve had complications with my veins that will have to be corrected, probably by surgery. I’ve had a catheter put in me through which my blood is drawn and returned.

These four hours are a wonderful time of prayer and reflection. I recognize that I am in a stage of my life in which my ability to live productively depends very much on the machine to which I am tethered. That reality invites me ever more deeply to continue to surrender to God as the Divine Will is manifested to me through this illness.

I am gratified for this gift of God. I have prayed during my priestly life that I may surrender and be open and powerless, completely dependent upon Jesus, whose spirit liberates me to a radical sense of mission through the rhythm of contemplation and courageous action to be a healing presence in any and all situations. To this, I say Amen.

That has been my daily prayer for at least 40 years of priesthood. God has answered that prayer in a number of ways that would not have been of my choosing. But those answers have deepened my trust in God’s abundant love and guidance of me.

As I offer all that has come with my illness for you and all who I love, I thank you for your prayers and for your thoughtfulness. I count on these prayers and I am lifted up by them. May this Lent be for you and for me a time of profound conversion, grace and joy.

May God continue to bless you and guide you,

Most Reverend Joseph A. Galante, D.D., J.C.D.

Bishop of Camden