GREAT LENT 2017
To the Reverend Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of the Diocese of the West
The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
(John 1:43-46, Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Great Lent)
After the preparatory weeks getting us ready for Great Lent, we come to the First Sunday of the Fast. There are two themes to this Sunday. The first theme, of course, is historical: the restoration of icons for use in worship and devotion in the Church after many years of iconoclasm. The second is the theme echoed by Philip: Come and See.
These themes are related to each other. Lent is the time we lament how distorted and disfigured the Image of God has become in each and every one of us. Sin and our embrace of passions and appetites has buried that image which is supposed to be bright and clear. Lent is the time when we work at polishing that image back to its original luster through repentance, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.
But those efforts only truly begin when we “come and see.” We have to take this annual journey back to the image that was imprinted on each of us at birth and then through the new birth of baptism, when we are born again through water and the Spirit. That happens when we rededicate ourselves to come and see the Savior who waits for us with anticipation and open arms. By our sincere confession of sins (which the Fathers call a “Second Baptism”) and the desire to return to the image, which has been lost, we recreate the Image of Him who has been lost in our daily cares and passions. If we hear the words that Philip heard, “Follow Me,” and respond, we will know the Resurrection not only as a celebration, but as a reality in our lives.
I ask your forgiveness as we enter into this tithe of the year and wish for all my faithful parishes and each and every one of you a most fruitful and joyous Fast. May we all rejoice in the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection at the end of these most holy days.
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of San Francisco