It is good to be back with you after a peaceful and restful vacation.
Let me begin this new season of “Along the Way” with a couple of expressions of gratitude. The first of those is to coworkers whose generosity and commitment make possible such vacation time. The second word of thanks goes to all of you who so kindly sent me greetings and good wishes on my 70th birthday.
I must confess that I remember no birthday — with the possible exception of my 13th in 1950! — that got me thinking as much as this one did. I mean that in a positive way. It was not a birthday that I dreaded or about which I felt sad in any way. To the contrary, the occasion sparked an awareness of the gift that life is. It also drew me to a renewed appreciation for God’s faithful love through all the years of life.
During those peaceful days, three elements nourished that awareness of life and of God’s faithful love. The first was the opportunity I had to spend time with family and friends. To be with my sister and brother-in-law, their children and their children’s children is always a joy. Their presence, activities, growth, exuberance and widely diverse personalities put me in touch in a special way with the dynamism of life. They grow. Their interests change. They move in different directions. But it’s fun to note in the adults the constant threads of personality and manner that go back to their childhood. And it’s a delight to note the deep bonds that endure through the ins and outs of life.
The second element was the memory that my dad did not live to celebrate his 70th birthday. That fact drew me to appreciate anew the fact that every day is a gift to appreciate and an opportunity to show our gratitude by using the gift to praise God and serve neighbor. No matter what the number of our days — and we don’t know that number — every one of them calls us to be loving children of God.
Lastly, when I turned 70, I realized that, if God grants me that many days, I will retire as diocesan bishop five years from now. I mention that not because I am yearning for the day to come. Indeed, I find this ministry to be very life-giving. I mention it because the awareness of a retirement time that slowly draws close turned me to thoughts of how best to serve our diocese between now and 2012. It’s an exciting thought. Why? Because it puts me in touch with life — its possibilities, opportunities and challenges. I have been thinking and praying about that future — asking the Lord for insight and guidance into the future. I ask for the support of your prayers as that future unfolds.
I don’t know what kind of summer you have had, but I hope that it has allowed you some time and quiet to reflect on the direction of your life, your relationship with God and with those who are near and dear to you.
You may or may not be celebrating a new decade of life, but I would guess that there are things going on in your life now that claim your attention in significant ways.
I hope that you will peacefully and confidently bring them to the Lord who encouraged us all to seek, to ask, to knock.
As I asked for your prayers in support of my decisions and directions for the future, so I promise my prayers in support of yours.
Peace to all.