From the Bishops Ponder on Paul

The monsoon season soon ends. The summer heat is somewhat subsiding. School bells are poised to ring, and parents are about to rejoice.


A new year of programs and activities in our parishes and schools and in our Diocese is about to begin, and as we make our last-minute preparations for the busy-ness that lies ahead, I encourage you to ponder on Paul – St. Paul.


Pope Benedict XVI has declared this the year of St. Paul, from the end of this past June to end of June next year, and Paul does give us much to ponder.


Paul’s writings comprise a large portion of the New Testament. His letters written to the many churches he founded contain his exhortations, his pastoral advice and his hopes for the people he was called to serve.


Paul’s hopes for the people in those early Christian communities resonate with me at the beginning of this Pauline Year.


Like Paul, I feel a profound gratitude to have been called to serve this local Church.


“I thank my God whenever I think of you, and every time I pray for you all. I always pray with joy for your partnership in the Gospel from the very first day up to the present.” (Philippians 1:1-3)


In these past seven years, I have grown fond of the priests, religious, deacons and laity who make up our local Church.


You inspire and impress me by your dedication and in all you do for others. As I travel from parish to parish and from school to school, I meet so many people who give of their time, talent and treasure to carry on the work of Christ.

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Paul spoke with affection for his co-workers who collaborated with him in his ministry. I see in our Diocese people very much like Titus, Timothy, Aquila and Priscilla: people of faith who make this bishop mighty proud and grateful.


As we begin another year together, I hope you know the respect and regard I hold for you.


Paul exhorts his communities to be joyful, to be thankful. For Paul, joy and gratitude are earmarks of a disciple of Christ. Yes, we face challenges. Yes, we sin and fail. Yes, we do not always live up to our calling as disciples.


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Yet, as we begin another program and activity year, we can reflect on our many blessings, foremost of which is the gift of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ.


Paul saw everything not of or in Christ as unimportant, as loss. Knowing Christ brings us joy despite suffering, struggle and disappointment. Knowing Christ is the blessing that moves us to give thanks. How precious is the gift of faith!


I hope this year that we might witness to joy and gratitude. Our Holy Father has said often in his short pontificate and during his recent visit to the U.S. that faith is not a series of prohibitions, a list of “don’ts” or a wagging finger. Rather, faith gives expression to joy, to a profound sense that all of life is blessing and gift.


I hope that that this joyful expression of faith takes hold in our Diocese and is characteristic of our witness.


Paul called his followers to be missionary disciples of Christ. Nothing kept Paul from preaching Christ: not imprisonment, shipwreck or any other adversity. He traveled the known world, from Corinth to Rome to Ephesus to Thessalonica. Just as he had turned his life around on the road to Damascus, he invited others to meet Christ. He was not always successful, but he was undaunted in his mission.


One of our diocesan priorities this year is to invite people to meet Christ.


In Lent, we will conduct a diocesan program of reconciliation, reaching out to Catholics who are alienated, angry or at odds with the Church and inviting them to come back home. It also will be an effort to invite others to discover Christ.


I pray that Paul’s passion for proclaiming Christ would take hold of all of us in our Diocese. Paul was not embarrassed to wear his faith on his sleeve. He was not hesitant to invite others to meet Christ. He was not reticent to let people know what Christ had come to mean to him.


In all we do this year in our parishes and schools, I hope that like Paul we will live as missionary disciples giving witness to our faith and leading others to Christ.


Have a great year.


Printed with permission from New Vision, newspaper for the Diocese of Tucson.


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