Dear Sacred Heart of Jesus Family,
A blessed Lent to you! This year Lent began on Valentine’s Day. Interestingly, you cannot say vaLENTine without the word “Lent”! We give ourselves as a sacrificial gift to the one we love. This year, again providentially, Easter Sunday is April Fool’s day, April 1st. A non-believer might think that believing in God is a joke, superstitious and irrational. But the empty tomb is the ultimate joke on the devil. Jesus conquered our sins, failings, the devil, and death itself. God’s Love always has the last laugh.
On a secular level, this month is Black History Month. Since 1976, our Presidents have designated this month in honor of the rich witness and perseverance of African Americans in our society and history. Since 1990, November has been designated as Black Catholic History Month. While we as a nation celebrate Black history on a secular level in February, and this year as a Church we begin Lent this month, I would like to highlight Saint Josephine Bakhita. She was not an American, but was from a noble family in the Sudan, was captured and enslaved, beaten, cruelly traded, and purchased by a diplomatic family. She came to Italy where she was eventually freed, baptized a Catholic, and became a Canossian Sister. She led an amazing life. She once said, “When a person loves another dearly, he desires strongly to be close to the other: therefore, why be afraid to die? Death brings us to God.” Ultimately our hearts are made to be centered on God. We can be close to Him now, and not fear dying to old ways of thinking, as we overcome ourselves.
African Americans have given us the witness of people who have had, and continue, to overcome so many obstacles—slavery, racism and injustice—as Americans. They show us that victory comes at the cost of sacrifice and perseverance. The African Church also richly witnesses to this. The first African conversion is found in Acts 8:26-40: the Ethiopian Eunuch, an emissary of the Nubian Queen, is baptized before Saint Paul is. Three Popes were born in Africa. Saints from Africa, many African leaders of religious life, the clergy, the first evangelization, and African American leaders witness to the power of God’s Grace, Mercy, and Love.
May this February be a blessed time for us all to overcome obstacles, especially those that keep us farther from God. May God heal us, our society, and all wounds that keep us from His tender Mercy during this richly blessed season. Let us embrace Christ’s Sacrifice as He enters the desert to seek us out, pray for us, and free us through His Passion and Death.
In Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart,
Fr. Bjorn Lundberg