CHARLOTTE — Approximately 200 people welcomed Bishop Bohdan Danylo, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma, Ohio, to St. Basil the Great Eastern Catholic Parish March 3, when he celebrated Divine Liturgy for “Forgiveness Sunday.”

“Forgiveness Sunday” is the last Sunday before the start of Lent in the liturgical calendar used by the Ukrainian Catholic Church, one of 23 autonomous Eastern (Byzantine) rite churches in communion with the pope. The growing St. Basil Parish, which falls under the jurisdiction of Bishop Bohdan, worships at St. Thomas Aquinas Church.

Bishop Peter Jugis attended the Mass in choir, and priests of the Diocese of Charlotte and St. Basil’s pastor, Father Joseph Matlak, concelebrated.

Father Matlak explained the importance of “Forgiveness Sunday”: “Our Lord says, before you give your gift at the altar, leave your gift there and go and reconcile yourself with one another – ask forgiveness from one another. Then you can offer your gift to the Father. The gifts that we offer are our prayers, our fasting, our almsgiving, but in order to do that well, we have to forgive those that we have wronged and we have to seek forgiveness as well for the times that we have done wrong.”

The liturgy, he noted, is similar to that of Western (Latin) Catholics for Ash Wednesday: “There’s a call to repentance, there’s a call to forgiveness.”

In his homily, Bishop Bohdan preached that Lent is a pilgrimage towards a particular end.

031519 Bishop Bohdan2“Lent is not for itself – the Great Lent is to prepare us for the holy cross, the Triduum Paschale, and for the holy Resurrection,” he said.

When Lent is over, he said, Easter should not be about just enjoying treats after 40 days of fasting. “Then May will come, June and vacation season, and we will say, ‘What happened? What happened to me? There was a Lent, and I’m still the same.’”

A successful pilgrim, he said, will follow the signs along the road – and the Church in its wisdom has given us the signs to follow during Lent. The liturgy for the Sundays in Lent teach us to pray for strength in times of difficulty, honesty and humility in recognizing our faults, forgiveness when we fail, and gratitude for God and the gift of His Son in saving us.

Lent is also the time to recognize Christ in others, especially the poor, the weak and “those who society threw away,” Bishop Bohdan said, and to share the joy of the Gospel with them – just as the Apostles did.

He encouraged people to pray for those who are thirsting and hungering for God, and invite to Mass anyone they know who has left the Church.

“And next time when we gather, there will be as many as twice of us, and the beauty of the Church will be shown in the faces of us when we walk from this door.”

— César Hurtado, Hispanic reporter