There’s something about the dawning of a new year that makes us look back over our shoulder at the past 12 months and recall the many twists and turns of life. Who could have known the challenges and blessings that lay ahead for us all?
God. That’s who.
I remember early in Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s leadership in the Phoenix Diocese, he said something that I’d always believed but could never quite articulate: “There are no coincidences. Rather, everything unfolds under the loving Providence of God.” He’s got us in the palm of His hand, even when it feels like our world just might be collapsing.
Looking back over my own life during this past year, I never would have guessed I’d resign my position as editor of a Tempe newspaper and take on something entirely different. “I’ve got ink in my veins,” I used to say. “There’s nothing more exciting than being out on a story!”
And then came the opportunity to work for the Vicar of Evangelization. Well, if sharing the Gospel with thousands, pairing the power of storytelling with sacramentals, isn’t exciting, I don’t know what is. I still have the opportunity to write for our local Catholic magazine, but I’m out of the news business. And, actually, loving it. I don’t know what the future holds, but I trust God will allow what is best.
As I sat at my desk yesterday and pored over a spreadsheet listing all the parishes in our diocese and the contact information for their youth ministry leaders, it did feel a bit deflating though. Due to the dire economic impact of the COVID pandemic, a number of parishes laid off their youth ministers and have yet to rehire or replace them.
And that makes me want to go charging out into the world and tell everyone I know that there’s nothing, NOTHING, more important than knowing, loving, serving and following Jesus. The Church exists to evangelize, and every one of us — not just priests, religious and youth ministers — is called to spread the Good News that God sent His Son into the world to save us.
Knowing Jesus — knowing how to find Him, listen to Him and follow Him — will change your life. Jesus can transform your relationships, heal your heart and open your eyes to the truth that will set you free. He can take the regrets and pain of your past and turn them to His purposes. He can make you a new creation.
Oh, you’ll still suffer, but you’ll do it in union with Him. By His Holy Spirit, you’ll be empowered to embrace the difficulties in life as the cross He said His followers must carry. By His sacraments, you’ll share in His life and gain the strength and grace to walk along the narrow way.
At a time when suicide is the second leading cause of death for those ages 10-34 in the U.S., the healing love of Jesus Christ is the one sure remedy. He is our unfailing hope, and He never wavers in His care for us. That is a story that never gets old. It’s a truth that countless martyrs have given their lives for, and which drives believers to sacrifice, risk and toil, no matter the cost. It’s this rich heritage that bids us to forgo the apathy, embarrassment and fear that have paralyzed millions of those who have a cognitive yet murkily lukewarm appreciation for Christianity.
If you’ve been away from Jesus, or if you’ve never really considered surrendering your life to Him, now is the moment. What have you got to lose? Misery, hopelessness and a dim future? Let us choose Him anew today, tomorrow and every day until the years fade away and we’re caught up in His embrace at last.
As 2022 unfolds before us, it’s more urgent than ever to share the love and the hope we find in Jesus. Let us begin this year on our knees, asking the Lord to empower us to be agents of His mercy, compassion and hope for every person we encounter. May we dare to be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves as we point to Jesus, our Savior and King of the Universe.