Lenten Pastoral Letter 2008 of Bishop Peter Bürcher

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I have the joy of sending my first Pastoral letter to all Catholics in Iceland. From all my heart I thank the priests who will read it to you on this Sunday before Lent 2008.

I have been asked many times what my first impressions of Iceland were. My answer has been; everything is new to me: the language, the particular and ever changing climate, the beauties of nature, the long nights during this period of the year and especially the warm hearted people of various backgrounds, the Catholic community which is very much alive and ever growing: Were there not 156 baptisms in 2007 and only 16 deaths. I am very happy to be your bishop who has come to serve you. I hope that one day, like Bishop Johannes Gijsen whom I would like to thank again, I will be able to say that the years passed in Iceland were the most beautiful in my life. I do want to thank you all for your faithful prayer for your Bishop.

Today the Gospel offers us one of its most beautiful passages, that is to say the Beatitudes: “Rejoice and be glad… for your reward is great in heaven!”. What are the reasons why we can be happy today?

In every moment, in spite of our shortcomings, we try to do the will of God. It is God who made us. He created us in Jesus Christ so that our acting may be truly good and in conformity with the path that God has traced out for us and that we have to follow. Trying to improve continually in order not to step back. This was the resolution that Pope John XXIII formed for his life: to accomplish well what he had to do in the present moment as if he were born only for that moment.

Dear brothers and sisters it might be that you progress in your life with the greatest of ease, as do other people around you. Might be that you earn a lot of money. We all need money but it doesn’t necessarily provide true inner peace and happiness. Still, each of you is looking for true happiness. Try to find it! But don’t search too far away! Don’t travel to the ends of the world to find it! For, if you are seeking happiness far away from you, you won’t ever find it.

So, where is true happiness to be found? Where is it? Happiness, of course, will be complete only in Paradise. But for the present moment, Jesus himself points to it in today’s Gospel: “Happy the peacemakers… happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right…”. These are the words of the same Jesus who said in Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me”. And this Spirit of God is truly strength, light, joy and peace. So don’t search for it elsewhere: it is in you, in your heart.

Nonetheless, even if we normally let God guide us with his Spirit of Love, the Tempter can prowl around in wait for us to lead us astray. Let’s therefore be vigilant and ready – if necessary – to convert our hearts!

On our own we are not able to reach true happiness; we need the Holy Spirit and also the help of other people. Let’s open our eyes and hearts for the many people around us who let God’s Spirit guide them. They serve others and radiate peace and the joy of their faith in God. They discovered God to be the treasure of their lives as it is He who makes them really happy. Speaking about Saint Paul, Saint John Chrysostom said: “He was rich with the love of Christ which was the greatest of all things to him. While he had this, he reckoned himself the most blessed of men.” This is also the path that is proposed by Lent, which is starting this week. So let us come in great numbers to church to set out together on this path this Ash Wednesday.

Last year, our Pope Benedict XVI invited us to walk this path: “May Lent be for every Christian a renewed experience of God’s love given to us in Christ, a love that each day we, in turn, must “re-give” to our neighbour, especially to the one who suffers most and is in need. Only in this way will we be able to participate fully in the joy of Easter. May Mary, Mother of Beautiful Love, guide us in this Lenten journey, a journey of authentic conversion to the love of Christ.” This year the Pope invites us to mark this Lenten time of grace with the giving of alms.

I wish you, dear brothers and sisters, that the Holy Spirit may dwell more deeply in you. May you discover Him in yourselves, may you discover him in others! I am convinced that we will be able to do so more and more, with an always greater heart, ready to love. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart… and your neighbour as yourself!” Now, this is our Christian identity card, or if you prefer, our kennitala of true happiness. “Rejoice and be glad … for your reward is great in heaven!”

Your Bishop Peter.

Reykjavík, 27 January 2008

Mt 5:12 Mt 5: 6

Lk 4:18

Hom 2 on St Paul

Pope Benedict XVI, Messege for Lent 2007, Vatican 21 November 2006 Cf. Pope Benedixt XVI, Message for Lent 2008, Vatican, 30 October 2007 Mk 12:30-31 (cf. Dt 6:4-5; Lv 19:18)

Mt 5:12