Monday, January 7, 2013

Thoughts from Bishop Jake

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Happy New Year!

Some of us have made resolutions for the coming year, many of which aim at self-improvement. We intend to eat less and to exercise more. Replace watching TV with reading. Learn a foreign language or be more patient.

We all need to make life-adjustments from time to time, and resolutions can play a worthy role in that process. But I find that resolutions often focus merely on the periphery of our lives. They rarely dig into the deep core of our values.

Before we get too far along in this year, let's take a little time to reflect on what we make the center of our universe. Think about these questions, or something like them:

What am I really about in this life? On what do I depend for my sense of significance? Where do I seek security?

Now, let's remember what Jesus taught us:
"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"   (Matthew 22:37-39)

Jesus urges us to nurture our relationships. Our relationship with God is our starting point, and that relationship expresses itself in our relationships with other people.

But it would be a mistake to consider the Summary of the Law as a goal to achieve, something that we can accomplish. Too many religious people fall into this error of thinking. They figure that being good enough and being spiritual enough will make God love them. And so they miss the point entirely.

God already loves us. He forsook all his infinite glory to be born for us in a manger and to die for us on a cross. He did this for us precisely because we cannot fulfill the Summary of the Law on our own.   As Anne Lamott put it, "If I were going to begin practicing the presence of God for the first time today, it would help to begin by admitting the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little." (from Help, Thanks, Wow)

The life devoted to and inscribed by love is the life that God gives us through Christ, not the achievement that God will grade in the end as if life were a great exam. It is the destination to which Jesus will lead us if we follow him, even if we often follow by shuffling or dragging our feet or stumbling headlong in a daze.

Blessings to you all in this New Year! It is so exciting to imagine what Jesus has in store for us!

In Christ's Love,


The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, Ph.D.
The Diocese of Western Louisiana