TO GROW IN OUR KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS
By Most Rev. JOSÉ H. GOMEZ, Archbishop of Los Angeles
We should make this Year of Faith a time of spiritual growth and renewal.
Our life of faith needs to be renewed all the time because it is a relationship.
Relationships are living things. And like all living things, our relationships will either keep growing and getting stronger or they will wither and fade.
Our friendship with Jesus Christ takes commitment and a lot of work — just like our human relationships with our friends, spouses, parents or children.
We need to always be making time to be with Jesus. We need to always be trying to know him better — his attitudes and habits, his thoughts and desires. We need to always be trying to share more of ourselves with him, opening our hearts to him in all honesty and love.
This is what I mean when I talk about making education in the faith a priority in our lives and in our pastoral ministries.
To know Jesus Christ! To enter into an ever deeper relationship with him! To live more and more from the depths of this relationship — walking with and following Jesus Christ in every aspect of our lives.
These are the true goals of education in the faith.
So how do we do that?
At the start of this year of renewal, I want to encourage you to rediscover the beauty of reading the Gospels.
When we read the Gospels, we enter into the life of Jesus Christ. We follow him as he moves from town to town, making his way slowly from Bethlehem and Nazareth to Jerusalem and Calvary.
When we read the Gospels, we hear Jesus’ words just as his first disciples did. With them, we witness the drama of his mission as it unfolds — his miracles, teachings and deeds; the increasing tensions and clashes with those who do not understand or accept him.
Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has urged every one of us to rediscover the Church’s ancient methods of lectio divina, or sacred reading. Lectio divina means reading that starts in prayer and leads to prayer.
That’s how we need to read the Gospels. Not as students gathering information to prepare for a test. But as friends who want to know everything we can about the One we love — the details of his life; what he is saying and thinking and feeling.
Listening to his words, following in his footsteps, staying with him, praying with him — we come to a deeper personal relationship and a deeper love. More and more we find ourselves thinking with Christ’s mind and loving with Christ’s heart.
In this Year of Faith, we need to learn to love the sacred Scriptures, especially the Gospels. We need to read them — not as dead words from the past, but as a living Word spoken to each one of us, personally, in the present.
Let’s begin in this Year of Faith a new commitment to our relationship with Jesus Christ. Let’s express that commitment by trying to read one chapter of the Gospel a day, every day.
We need to read with prayer and faith, guided by the Spirit and the Church’s tradition of liturgy and belief. We need to read always remembering that these Gospel scenes tell the story of real people like us. As we read, we need to try to “enter into” the minds and hearts of the characters in the text. We need to imagine how they felt and what they were thinking. We need to let the words and events on the sacred page touch us personally.
Reading this way is transformative. It will change us.
To learn how to read this way, it helps to also read commentaries that seek to trace the life of Christ and bring out the spiritual dimensions of Gospel texts.
Some of my favorites are the classics: Frank Sheed’s “To Know Christ Jesus”; Msgr. Romano Guardini’s “The Lord”; “The Life of Jesus Christ” by Franz Michel Willam; and “The Public Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ” by Father Alban Goodier, S.J.
I also highly recommend Pope Benedict XVI’s “Jesus of Nazareth.” He has published two volumes already — the first on the public life of Jesus and the second on his Passion, death and Resurrection. The third and final volume, covering the infancy and early life of Jesus, will be published in early December.
On our Year of Faith website — http://archla.org/newworld — I will add some links in coming days to resources on lectio divina and sources for reading the Gospels with faith. We will be offering more resources for growing in our knowledge of the faith in The Tidings in the weeks to come.
Let’s keep one another in prayer. Let’s try to bring Jesus Christ closer in everything we do this week.
And let’s ask Our Lady of the Angels to bring about a renewal of our love for Jesus in this Year of Faith.
Follow Archbishop Gomez at: www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez