My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Last month, as part of my monthly series on discipleship, I shared my personal story of discovering Jesus while I was a young man in seminary. While my story is unique to me, God desires to reveal himself to each of us in very specific and personal ways as well. Perhaps some of you have had similar experiences.
Sometimes when God reaches out to reveal himself to us, we immediately recognize it. This was the case in my situation, as well as in many famous stories in the Scriptures like Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3). Other times, we are not immediately aware of God’s presence, but it becomes clearer as we reflect back. Sometimes this happens quickly, like the case of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24), or sometimes it might take years to recognize the role God was playing in our lives. Regardless of how quickly we recognize it, the certainty is that God is always looking for ways to offer himself to us more completely.
One of the ways you can sense God’s presence is by looking back at the experiences of your life. Once you begin to review your personal history – the peaks and valleys, the ebbs and the flows – you will see all of the ways he has stepped into your life. You will realize the times God was there to pick you up, to support you, to walk alongside you, to laugh with you or to cry with you. As you reflect, you will begin to appreciate how much God has done and is doing for you.
All of a sudden, it seems, reality begins to change along with your understanding of the purpose of your life and the reason you showed up here on earth. You are no accident and you have been in the Divine Plan even long before you were born. You will begin to recognize that God, who revealed himself completely in Jesus, is not some distant and aloof taskmaster, but your Father and your friend. God delights in you and wants you to experience more and more of the goodness he has to offer you.
Fr. Raneiro Cantalamessa, the pope’s preacher, mentions this experience of discovering that the Lord is real: “I can see from my own experience that even if I speak of many beautiful concepts, nothing seems to happen. We must proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior, helping people to grasp what it means to have Jesus as their Savior. Not in a theoretical way, but rather, that every day they have a Savior, someone who will lift them from their fatigue of the day, of their sin and their mistakes and who renews them.”
Jesus is the One who is your Savior from all of the burdens of the world: the anxieties, the scrutiny of others, both your friends and your enemies. The mindless pursuit of more and more: success, pleasure, achievement, whatever or whomever it is – the object of your interior desires that has been wearing you down. Jesus came to take these burdens away from you. He simply waits for you to invite Him into your life.
As we enter these final weeks of Lent, it might be a good time for you to sit down and reflect back on your life. Ask God to show you how He was present in the many situations you have faced, both positive and negative. Spend some time in quiet, listening to God and asking for the grace to see your life the way he sees it. And do so with confidence in the good news that there is only one Savior and he wants to save you and become your best friend.
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter at @BpDavidRicken.