What is most important right now? Fruitful discipleship.
I personally find the beginning of a new year a most helpful time, an especially energetic time, a time to think deeply about making some new goals regarding those areas in my life that I most want to turn my attention to, both physically and spiritually. As St. Teresa of Avila was fond of saying, albeit in an entirely different context, the new year is a time to “begin again.” I know that many of you share these or similar sentiments at this time of year. With that in mind, could there possibly be a better theme for this Faith Matters article than “Renewed Purpose?”
The theme calls to mind a question that I increasingly ask myself, thanks to Pat Lencioni and his excellent book The Advantage: “What is most important right now?” Questions in general are helpful, for they serve to clarify things for us, but this question in particular I find especially helpful and continually return to it. Another way to think of this question is, “If I could only do one thing over the course of the next six months, what should that one thing be?” This question can be used at work, in marriage, in family life and for our personal lives as disciples of Jesus.
Perhaps for some of us the answer to that question is to finally make a commitment to set aside time each day to pray. Not to squeeze God in, not to settle for praying in the car or while I’m working out (though those are fine places to pray!), but to put into my calendar an appointment to “waste” time with Jesus daily. For others of us perhaps we might decide to make a commitment to spend time each week for an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament, to attend daily Mass, monthly Confession, or pray the rosary every day. Maybe for more than a few of us it will be to commit to ponder over the Word of God in a deliberate and intentional way each day, perhaps starting with the Gospels.
Countless others, I’m sure, come to mind. Let me offer one resolution in particular, though, that I think is worth pondering at length as we enter this year with “renewed purpose.” It comes by way of Curtis Martin, a co-founder of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). Curtis makes it a point to say that Jesus calls us not simply to be faithful disciples but to be fruitful disciples. From my experience, many (most?) Catholics don’t think this way. Many see faithfulness, getting my life finally under the Lordship of Jesus, as the “ultimate” goal. Now, to be sure, you and I are called to be conformed to Jesus, to put the mind of Christ, to bring everything in our lives under His loving rule. However, as Curtis reminds us, Jesus called the disciples – you and me! – to bear fruit (cf. John 15:1-10), and to go out and make disciples. This isn’t the task of bishops, priests, deacons and religious; this is the task of every friend of Jesus. And in a particular way, I think, this privilege is worth the members of Legatus praying about intently.
As a priest and pastor, I believe that one of the most helpful things men and women like you can offer the Church and the world is to spiritually multiply, that is, to ask the Lord, “Who are You calling me to share my life with in the year ahead, Jesus? Who are You inviting me to walk with in a deliberate way, to mentor, to disciple (yes, that’s a verb)?” You know how many people respect and look up to you. This is a gift God has given you. He has placed you on a lampstand so as to shine with His light, and to bring them into a life-changing encounter with the only One who can satisfy the desire of every human heart: Jesus. May the year ahead be one filled with renewed purpose and abundant fruit!
FR. JOHN RICCARDO is a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit. He was ordained in 1996 and currently serves as pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth, MI. He is passionate about the new evangelization and offering others a life-changing encounter with Jesus.