The posting of my Christmas letter is just a month late this year. It is a resolution of mine to blog more often this year. Perhaps a few days off will afford me the opportunity to work on some ideas that I have been kicking around.
A year ago in January, I accomplished my thirty-third successful trip around the sun. Catholic friends were quick to remind me that Jesus died in his thirty-third year. I reminded them that his death happened only after many had come to believe that he was the Messiah. Much to my own dismay, few seem to suspect the same about me. I am not the Messiah, but, like everyone else, I need him to save me.
I was shocked to discover, while on vacation in September, that my friends are getting old. A smile from one of them revealed wrinkles around the eyes that had not been there the year previous. The hair of another is now tinseled with silver. The vanity of a third friend required him to shave his beard for the same reason. I could not, for my part, identify how I had aged outwardly in a year. Interiorly, though, I feel older. I find I am more sensitive to the invisible ways that people suffer. I acknowledge more readily that people do what they do, for good or for ill, motivated by a desire to be happy. Daily, the voice of the Holy Spirit finds a way to whisper to me, “You will be judged according to how you have loved.” These observations are made more poignant after a truly exceptional retreat in October wherein Jesus gently but emphatically reminded me of how much he loves me.
My thoughts turn often to my family these days. I fear I have neglected them in my five years of priesthood. None of us anticipated how often my own sense of duty would deprive me of time with them. Both of my brothers live on the ranch now, pursuing dreams of becoming cattle barons. I harbor no such desires myself, but I am jealous of the amount of time they spend together. I anticipate spending a week on the ranch in January. That should be enough time to remind me that while always my home, I do not want to live there.
I also find myself thinking often of Fr. Peter Kovarik. More than 1,000 people attended his funeral. I have never seen the Cathedral so full. He touched many lives. That is what happens when you love people. That is what happens when you allow Jesus to love people through you. I hope that my own funeral is well-attended someday as a testament that I have loved well. Thus, for another year, the Lord has been softening my heart, stretching my capacity to love, knocking down walls of pride, and inviting me to give him more of myself. He reminds me day by day that the first posture of the Christian before God is one of gratitude. He has given me so much, and among these gifts is you. Thank you for teaching me to love. Thank you for all you do for me. I am deeply grateful.
Sincerely yours in Christ,