Entering Our Second Week of Lent

In my 2024 Lenten message, I proposed a little something different for how we could approach Lent and how we look at our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I invited everyone to choose three special intentions for which every prayer, every sacrifice, and every act of charity was offered: to look closely at your family, community, and world and consider where you’d like to focus your spiritual energy this season of Lent. There are so many people and situations for which we can (and do) pray. I hope you found ways to be more intentional each time you pray, fast, or serve to connect each to those three intentions consciously. 

Piece of Cloth with LENT written across it _ with the words Fast_Give_Pray

Just as your muscles are strengthened by exercise and use, so too do our spiritual “muscles” strengthen each time we practice our faith. Lent is the perfect time to take a step back and reflect on the many ways we separate ourselves from Jesus. When we are purposeful in our Lenten practices, this time will be more fruitful and meaningful, drawing us back into a stronger relationship with our Savior and each other.

Please know my prayers remain with you as you continue your Lenten journey. 

Diocesan Wedding Anniversary Celebration

The first book I read in seminary in the United States was The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen. He said that in our own woundedness, we can become a source of life for others. We grow when we identify our own brokenness, and that makes us better and more sympathetic to the wounds of others.

On Sunday, February 11, the Diocese welcomed married couples to celebrate their special anniversaries with a Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fall River. That day also happened to be the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of Prayer for the Sick. Pope Francis used the image that the Church is a field hospital where we take care of others’ wounds first. They are in most need of healing when they open their wounds to encountering Christ.

We all bring with us wounds that need to be healed, sometimes physical, but a lot of times, they are emotional, psychological, or spiritual. Sometimes, they are inflicted by others or sometimes by ourselves and our own sins. Because of this, we don’t have things all under control and we need God.

Bishop at altar_Cathedral Church filled with People
2024 Diocesan Wedding Anniversary Celebration Mass, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Fall River

The Gospel for that day, Mark 1:40-45, tells how the leper had deep in his heart the trust that he could approach Jesus even though lepers were outcastes and told to stay apart and announce themselves to be unclean. Jesus was empathetic to his situation, even though they were never to be touched, and anyone who touched them was made unclean, but Jesus wanted to change this whole situation. “I do will it, be made clean.”

Jesus’ touch didn’t just allow the leper to become clean, but rather, everyone in this situation to become clean. The verb used here is to clean, not heal, because the leper didn’t just want to be healed physically but wanted to be restored to his family and society. Jesus reached out to him just like he does to each one of us. If we can have the trust and faith to say, Lord, you can make me clean again, and you can restore me. 

When God looks at us, he doesn’t just see body parts but also sees all of our hearts. And that is where most of our healing and cleaning needs to take place. We all need that healing. We all know what it is like to be hurt; whether it comes from losing a spouse, a separation, or a breakdown in communication, we all need to be healed. There is one thing required of the one needing to be healed: the recognition of our wounds. We need the courage to recognize that we need help; then, we can turn to Jesus and say only You can heal me. It is only the denial of the need for healing that prevents it from happening.

There may not be lepers here with us, but there may still be people ostracized from our families or Church that need to be welcomed. Pope Francis, in his message for the sick today, shares that no one who is incurable, terminally Ill, is undeserving of our care.

To those at the Wedding Anniversary Mass, I shared that whether you are celebrating one year or 70 years of marriage here today, you know what it means to inflict wounds and to heal each other’s wounds because in married life they both happen. While you may have hurt one another, you have also come to know how to reach out and heal one another.

What makes a successful marriage? Two things: communication and commitment. Without those, no marriage will be successful. But when you add generosity, understanding, and forgiveness, that is the recipe for a happy marriage. But if you don’t communicate with each other in an honest way and if you don’t stay committed to one another, it will be hard to have a happy and healthy relationship. Some of the things that brought you together have changed. But your promise of love and fidelity to one another, that you would be there for each other in sickness and health, in good times and in bad, these things remain and are what keep you in love with each other.

And for that witness and commitment, we want to say thank you, and God bless you for that commitment and promise, for showing to the world your witness in a time when fidelity has been neglected. What an honor to recognize, bless, and celebrate these many, many years of marriage. They are a testament to the grace of a sacramental marriage.

Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha

The Most Reverend Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., D.D.
The Most Reverend Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., D.D.
The Bishop of Fall River