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NOTE: The following letter was published in the May 3, 2018 edition of The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Thanks be to God, the Easter season is a time of great graces for our Church. We know that Christ established His Church on the foundation of the Apostles as a visible, structured community which is at the same time a spiritual communion, a mystical body enlivened by the Spirit's manifold gifts, and the sacrament of salvation for all humanity (Lumen Gentium, 8). What a gift God gives us in His Church, however, it is not a gift we receive and tuck away.
The Church is constantly called to grow in unity through our ongoing conversion to Christ, whose saving work is celebrated in the sacraments. The work of evangelization is born from this unity and ongoing conversion and as His disciples, you and I are called to proclaim the great works of God and invite others to enter this community of those saved by the blood of Christ and granted new life in His Spirit. It was so encouraging and a joy at the neophyte Mass, therefore, to hear from some of our new converts what the Lord has done in their lives, and what others, what you, have invited them to join in, the living Body of Christ.
The graces of this Easter season are also abundantly celebrated in the many confirmations, first communions, baptisms, weddings and the reception of new Catholics at the Easter Vigil. We also wait in joyful anticipation for the diaconate and priestly ordinations we will celebrate in a few weeks for five of our brothers who are eager to give their lives to the Lord in service of you! I am so blessed to personally witness these many graces so often, and I know our priests and deacons find much joy in them too.
I pray this season of grace will be an occasion for all of us to offer others a convincing account of the hope that inspires us, and to be renewed in our evangelization efforts to build up this beautiful portion of God's Kingdom here in our four counties of New Jersey. Being Jesus’ disciple means that we are not just recipients of His grace, but that we are also active conduits of that grace and love to others. In a recent Gospel at Sunday Mass we were reminded that if we are not bearing fruit, we are missing the mark as disciples. It is important for us to remember that Jesus gave us this teaching on the vine and the branches in the context of the Last Supper, which is a Eucharistic setting. The expectation to “bear fruit” and to be a conduit of God’s grace becomes particularly daunting when we realize the necessity of passing on to others the presence of Jesus whom we have received in the Eucharist. Indeed, as His disciples, we are not only to receive the Lord, but also called to actively share the Lord, to bear fruit!
How our world so needs this witness! I thank you for being such good disciples of the Lord, who has blessed us with so much. As we turn our hearts over anew to Him, asking Him to convert them to be more like His own, we build up the unity of the Church and share these graces with others. Let us turn to God in prayer, often, during this great season of Easter and beg, "Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!"
The Most Reverend James F. Checchio, JCD, MBA
Bishop of Metuchen