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Pray for those entering the Catholic Church this Lenten season

Joseph F. Naumann is Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

We have reached the halfway mark for the Lenten season. We should keep in our prayers the hundreds of individuals in our archdiocese who are preparing for baptism or reception into full communion with the Catholic Church.

The day of our baptism is the most important day of our life. Through the waters of baptism, we receive the very life of Jesus. We are given the dignity of becoming a temple of the living God. We are also given a destiny to live with God, the saints and the angels forever.

What could ever compare with the gift of our baptism? There is nothing this world can offer that can rival the grace of baptism. There is no material thing, no worldly pleasure, no human relationship and no recognition or honor that comes close to the gift of eternal life and the dignity of being a beloved daughter or son of God.

Those already baptized as Christians will enter the Catholic Church by making a profession of faith, being confirmed by the Holy Spirit and receiving the great gift of the Eucharist. However, some time before the Easter Vigil, the candidates for full communion with the Catholic Church will first receive the sacrament of reconciliation.

We need to pray for these candidates that the Lord will grant them the grace to make a sincere and heartfelt confession. This can be an intimidating and even dreaded experience for adults entering the church. In receiving the sacrament of reconciliation, they also provide us with an example of the importance of sacramental confession in restoring the beauty and joy of the divine life we received through the waters of baptism.

The sacrament of penance or confession is for all of us the opportunity to renew and recover the purity and innocence of our baptism. Jesus was constantly forgiving sinners. Our Lord’s mission as savior and redeemer was to liberate human beings from the enslavement of sin and the finality of death. Unless we understand ourselves to be sinners in need of mercy, then we cannot really understand Jesus and his mission.

Lent is a six-week preparation for the renewal of our baptismal promises on Easter. The most important action that we can take to prepare for Easter is to avail ourselves of the gift of sacramental confession.

Several years ago, I remember hearing Jen Fulwiler, when she was a host of a radio show on the Catholic Channel, talk about the peace she experienced after receiving the sacrament of reconciliation. She was an only child of parents who were both nonbelievers. Her father was a committed atheist and her mother was probably more of an agnostic. I encourage you to read her book, “Something Other Than God,” which is a memoir of her conversion to Catholicism.

Fulwiler wrote of the tremendous peace, the great sense of being unburdened, that she experienced after receiving the sacrament of reconciliation. She thought to herself: “I don’t believe this is for free.”

Jesus knew that people throughout human history would need the gift of the forgiveness of sins, not just those who happened to be alive during his brief earthly ministry. It was on Easter night, at Our Lord’s first encounter with the apostles after they had abandoned him during his passion and crucifixion and, in Peter’s case, denied even knowing him, that Jesus empowered them to forgive the sins of others in his name. It was at the moment when the apostles were most aware of their sinfulness — their unworthiness — that Our Lord bestowed upon them the power to forgive the sins of others.

In so doing, Jesus made clear that it was not because of the apostles’ innocence or worthiness that they received this power to grant God’s mercy. Jesus chose to use weak human instruments to be vessels of his mercy in order to make clear it was not because of their personal holiness but rather because his divine power could use sinners to free sinners from the bondage of evil.

Do not allow Lent to pass without receiving this great sacrament of mercy that restores our baptismal purity. Give yourself the gift of hearing the words of absolution liberating you from your sin, by one designated by the church whom Jesus empowered to bestow his divine mercy.

Pray for those being baptized and received into the church this Easter, that they will experience the peace and joy only Jesus can provide.

Also, take advantage of the sacrament of reconciliation so that you can taste anew the peace and joy that only the God-man, the Redeemer, the One crucified on Calvary who forgave his executioners, the One who defeated death on Easter, can renew and restore.

About the author

Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Joseph F. Naumann is the archbishop for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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