By Most Rev. Gerald R. Barnes
Jesus invites us in Matthew’s Gospel to take refuge in him when we are weary and troubled. “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened…,” He calls to us.
This scripture is familiar to many and perhaps it has brought us comfort in difficult times. As we continue with our Lenten reflection and prayer, however, it may be worth examining how we respond to this invitation from the Lord. For it is not given for us to take or leave. His invitation and how we accept and act upon it is the oxygen of our faith. It lives in our hearts and brings us to renewal each day.
We are challenged by the ever-increasing busyness that permeates our lives to make the time and space necessary to nurture this relationship of the heart with our Lord. We can put time on our calendar for Mass or ministry work, we can put prayer on our “to do list,” but are we really connecting with Jesus Christ on a regular basis?
When we are unable to do this we suffer, our family suffers and our Church suffers. A heart devoid of Christ is given to bitterness, despair and selfishness. And no amount of experience in ministry, theology or even religious vocation makes us immune to this.
The major challenges that face us as a Church – moral confusion, burnout, loss of faith, disconnection from family, the intrusion of secular culture – they all, in some way, can be linked to our struggle to take rest in Jesus. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI recognizes this fundamental concern and he is calling on all of us to seek renewal in our relationship with Christ and to reaffirm our identity as Roman Catholics. To help us do this together as a Church he has declared a “Year of Faith” that will begin in October, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. “We want this Year to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope,” Pope Benedict proclaimed in his apostolic letter, Porta Fidei, announcing the Year of Faith.
It will be a time for us to look with new eyes at the building blocks of our faith – prayer, liturgy, the sacraments, the Catechism, public witness and others – and to receive all that they have to offer us. Out of our own sense of renewal, it is hoped that the Year will engender a new sense of shared mission to extend God’s word and redeeming power to others; to turn back the tide of secularism that is rising especially high in Western Europe and the United States. This is what Church leaders are calling “The New Evangelization.” It is my hope and prayer that we will come to know and embrace this call in our diocese during the Year of Faith.
But please do not wait for the Year of Faith to strengthen your relationship with the Lord. As with any relationship, we need to nurture our bond with Jesus by faithfully giving him our time. We can do this through regular prayer, reflection on His words and teachings in the holy gospels and, of course, encountering Him in the celebration of the Eucharist.
I offer my prayers that the remainder of your Lenten journey will lead you to the peace, joy and salvation that come when we give ourselves anew to the Lord Jesus. May God bless you.
PUBLISHED IN THE MARCH 2012 INLAND CATHOLIC BYTE