A Shepherd's Message - Jan. 13, 2015

January 13, 2015

I am heading for the annual retreat for the Bishops of Texas in San Antonio even as I write this brief column. Stepping back and going on a quiet journey with the Lord to both review and look forward in one’s spiritual life is an important part of a person’s life with Christ.

Priests, deacons and religious are required to make a retreat each year, but the requirement has grown out of the genuine desire and need for all those who are shepherds and leaders to spend some excellent quiet time for discernment, prayer, reflection and solidarity with other pastoral ministers and to ask the Lord Jesus to renew both their personal lives and their public service to the Church.

There has always been a retreat movement among God’s faithful in the Archdiocese, and though many people would say they have no time to engage in a yearly retreat it is surprising how many men and women participate in retreats or at least a yearly Day of Recollection for the good of their lives, their families, their marriage and their work.

I highly encourage everyone (we even have family weekend retreats in the Archdiocese) to give serious consideration to a time spent “apart” so that each person can more consciously be “a part” of the Body of Christ charged with a mission to make Christ known.

The emphasis on evangelization in our Church in recent years carries with it an invitation for each Catholic to be more intentional in their faith commitment; without a special time of prayer and quiet the very noise of our lives today makes that invitation more difficult to perceive.

It is important to note that even Jesus Christ, after His Baptism in the Jordan, immediately went to the desert for a 40-day “retreat.” He was also known to spend times apart in prayer before some major public decisions He made and also invited His apostles to come aside with Him for prayer and discernment. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life; our imitation of Him in His life and ministry is essential for our own growth in friendship with Him and His Father.

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which ends the Christmas Season, is celebrated on Jan. 11 this year. It proclaims the solidarity of Jesus with all sinful humanity and His sinlessness opens up a space for all of us who tend to hide from the voice and the presence of the Father to draw near to the Father by drawing near to Jesus. We can hear the voice of the Father cry out to His Son and to the world: “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” In our own Baptism we become beloved sons and daughters and are asked to join Jesus in His proclamation even as through Him we can stop being afraid and enter into a friendship that transforms us. Jesus Christ creates us anew without tearing apart, but by healing that part of us that has been distanced from God.

May we have a blessed beginning of this new year and join with Christ in faith and love!

P.S. - As always I want to thank so many members of this local Church for their beautiful Christmas Cards, greetings, prayers and best wishes and their gifts, many of which were of the “food variety” and added to my caloric intake during the Christmas Season. Many thanks! †