Care for your soul in the new year

Care for your soul in the new year

MessageFromTheBishop-WEB

A Blessed New Year to you and yours. As we enter into 2016, let us recall the request Pope Francis made at the opening of the Jubilee of Mercy, to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father. In several of my columns last year, I touched on the Holy Year and our need to understand mercy. This will be a continuing theme as we move through the Jubilee until its close in late November.

As we leave behind the joy and the stress of our Christmas festivities, the start of a new calendar year is an excellent opportunity to focus on our spiritual needs.

It is easy in the hustle and bustle of everyday life to be distracted by the cacophony that calls our attention. Often these are loud shouts of little import that offer no solace or resolution, but instead prevent us from attending to the needs of our own soul.

Most of us need to make an effort to seek out peace and quiet. To speak with God and meditate on what we should be doing, not necessarily what we feel drawn to do by some external force. The diversions that surround us can slowly chip away at our spiritual focus. To be cognizant of the needs of our soul requires reflection.

There are many ways this can be done and none of them need to be difficult. One of the simplest ways during the course of a day is to find 20 minutes to sit in quiet. There are opportunities when this is possible; however, we often fill them with attractive and easier options such as, TV, chit-chat, the Internet, games on our mobile devices, the cell phone, etc. Surely, we can shave some time off those external distractions to focus instead on our spiritual well-being.

This period of reflection is an opportunity to recharge our batteries and to consider spiritual opportunities often abandoned by secular distractions.

One topic you will hear about in the upcoming months is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It figures heavily in the Jubilee of Mercy. It is a sacrament that is reflective. The chief benefactor of its use is the individual. It is one of the sacraments that is fully focused on the self.

Sadly, the use of the confessional is at an all-time low. I fear many people do not understand the cleansing, meditative and spiritually enhancing benefits that reconciliation can provide. Also, there is a loss of the presence and attraction of sin in the world.

Much like meditation, the very act of confession allows us to focus on ourselves, to reflect on our actions, the decisions we made, and why we made them. More importantly, it gives us time to think about what we are doing and where we would like to be in the future. Moreover, reconciliation comes with a special benefit — the guidance of the priest confessor, whose role in this sacrament is to bring us God’s forgiveness and to strengthen our resolve to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. That should hardly be the scenario that strikes fear in the heart of so many Catholics.

Time and time again, Jesus calls on us to “Be not afraid.” I urge you during this jubilee Year of Mercy to overcome your fears of the confessional, to unburden yourself for a short while from the distractions that surround you, and to focus a small portion of your daily energy into caring for your soul and your spiritual well-being. From each of these practices, you will benefit greatly.

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